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Financial News Media Reporting On Retail Sales So Bad, It’s Laughable

I keep complaining to mainstream journos about their slavish devotion to the seasonally adjusted fictitious numbers put out in virtually all economic data releases. It does not matter that these releases also prominently report the ACTUAL, not seasonally adjusted data. The journos ignore it. Why? Because all their little journo friends ignore it. God forbid they should step out of lockstep formation and report actual facts. Somebody might get the real picture.

So it is with today’s retail sales report. Not that they were all that great. They were in line with the trend. But that’s not my point here. I’ll dig into the numbers a little more in a later post. But they certainly were not “DOWN SHARPLY” as Bloomberg and virtually all other media outlets hysterically reported.

Here are the facts.

December actual, not seasonally adjusted retail sales rose by $62.9 billion or 14.2% month to month. Obviously December is always an up month, so to get a feel for how good or how bad that number is, we merely need to compare it to December in years past. This December was better than both December 2012 and 2013, which both rose by 12.5%. It was not as strong as the economic bungee rebound years of December 2009, 2010, and 2011. The gains of those years were 18%, 16.6% and 15.5% respectively as consumers loosened their purse strings coming off a depressed 2008.

In total dollar terms the $62.9 billion gain was the largest since December 2004. Somehow, the biggest December gain in 11 years became “DOWN SHARPLY” due to faulty seasonal adjustments. Looking at the chart of the not seasonally adjusted ACTUAL numbers, it’s clear that there’s been no deviation from trend whatsoever.

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Here again is more evidence that neither seasonally adjusted data nor mainstream financial journalists can be trusted. They steadfastly refuse to report the facts, singing only in the chorus. Depending on what day it is, it will be either a Hallelujah chorus or a Doomsday chorus. But one thing is certain. They’ll sing together, wrong notes and all.

Lee Adler

I’ve been publishing The Wall Street Examiner and its predecessor since October 2000. I also publish LiquidityTrader.com, and was lead analyst for Sure Money Investor, of blessed memory. I developed David Stockman's Contra Corner for Mr. Stockman. I’ve had a wide variety of finance related jobs since 1972, including a stint on Wall Street in both sales, analytical, and trading capacities. Prior to starting the Wall Street Examiner I was a commercial real estate appraiser in Florida for 15 years. I was considered an expert in the analysis of failed properties that ended up in the hands of bank REO divisions, the FDIC, and the RTC. Remember those guys? I also worked in the residential mortgage and real estate businesses in parts of the 1970s and 80s. I have been charting stocks and markets and doing analytical work since I was a teenager. I'm not some Ivory Tower academic, Wall Street guy. My perspective comes from having my boots on the ground and in the trenches, as a real estate broker, mortgage broker, trader, account rep, and analyst. I've watched most of the games these Wall Street wiseguys play from right up close. I know the drill from my 55 years of paying attention. And I'm happy to share that experience with you, right here. 

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