A Retail Nightmare
Any boost to the markets that might have come from Goldman Sachs' preannounced, better than expected earnings last night is getting wiped away by figures released by the Commerce Department this morning.
March, it seems, was just not a good month for shopping. Retail sales fell by 1.1 percent during the month, a much wider margin than the 0.3 percent dip that economists had forecast. It was the biggest decline for retail sales in three months.
The news dashed hopes that the economy had reached a bottom. The increases in January and February suggested that consumers were still willing to spend despite the sluggish job market. Consumer spending comprises 70 percent of the country's economic activity.
A poor seasonal comparison is partly to blame for the fall. Easter arrived in March last year, while it fell later on the calendar in 2009, hopefully giving a boost to April.
The dismal auto market was a major contributor to the decline. Sales of auto parts fell by 2.3 percent, bringing that sector down 23.6 percent since March 2008.
Excluding autos and gas, retail sales fell by 0.8 percent. The only stores that reported an increase in sales during March were grocery stores and health care stores. Related LinksParsing Goldman Sachs: All Hail Market SentimentFed FrightWe're All Banks Now