The Worst Combo: Consumer Spending Is Mediocre, Gas Prices Rising, And Retailers Have No Pricing Power

Retail sales came in weaker than expected this morning, largely driven by disappointing sales of general merchandise in the month of December.

The really bad news may be that, when combined with the CPI data, things are starting to look a little stagflationary. CPI came in hot, rising to its highest level since 2009. But retail sales are clearly slowing down. Consumers may be starting to feel the inflation, particularly in the sharp increase in energy costs, with gasoline prices up 8.5% month-over-month, 13.8% year-over-year.

That’s going to hit consumer spending, and it’s evidenced in the December retail sales data. For the department store sector overall, sales fell by 1.9% from November to December, a worry for big names like Sears, Macy’s, and J.C. Penney.

Electronics sales also fell 0.6% from November to December, perhaps a worrying sign for Best Buy.

Of course, stocks are still up…

This is why David Rosenberg says this is a Wile E. Coyote market >

From the full Census release:


Photo: Census

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