Extra Holiday Shopping Day Obscures Pathetic 1% Gain Over Last Year

shopping carts in line

Retail sales are up 3.6% for November 1st to Christmas Eve compared to last year.

Good new!

Alas, we only improved 1% from last year if strip out the extra holiday shopping day we had.

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AP:  U.S. stock futures crept higher Monday as investors returning from a long holiday weekend were heartened by good news on retail sales.

Overseas markets were also higher. The dollar weakened against other currencies, giving commodities prices a boost. Bond prices fell.

Data released Monday showed shoppers opened their wallets more this season, a good sign that consumers are feeling better about the economy.

Figures from MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse, which track all forms of payment, show retail sales rose 3.6 per cent from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, compared with a 2.3 per cent drop a year ago. Adjusting for an extra shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the number was closer to a 1 per cent gain.

Consumer spending is one of the biggest drivers of economic growth and is vital to a sustained recovery.

Investors will also be keeping a close eye on airline stocks after a failed attack on a Northwest flight on Christmas Day. Another incident on the same flight to Detroit from Amsterdam on Sunday raised further alarm.

Shares of Delta Air Lines Inc., which owns Northwest, slipped 14 cents to $11.63 in premarket trading. UAL Corp., which operates United Airlines, fell 42 cents, or 3.3 per cent, to $12.67.

Stocks are currently at their highest levels of the year, and in the absence of any bad news, analysts say the market is likely to drift higher during the final days of 2009. Trading volume has been extremely light due to the holidays, which can exaggerate price swings. Markets were closed on Friday for Christmas and will be closed again this Friday for New Year’s Day.

Ahead of the market’s open, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 4, or 0.04 per cent, to 10,470. Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures gained 1.20, or 0.1 per cent, to 1,123.20, and Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 4.25, or 0.2 per cent, to 1,872.25.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 1.3 per cent to its highest close since late August, boosted by encouraging news on factory production. In afternoon trading, Germany’s DAX index rose 0.7 per cent, while France’s CAC-40 rose 0.8 per cent. Britain’s FTSE 100 was closed for a holiday.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.85 per cent from 3.80 per cent Thursday.

Commodities prices rose as the dollar fell. Commodities are priced in U.S. dollars, so when the greenback is weak they become more attractive to foreign buyers.

The ICE Futures U.S. dollar index, which measures the dollar against other major currencies, slipped 0.1 per cent. Oil prices gained 35 cents to $78.40 a barrel in electronic premarket trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold prices also rose.

Major stock indexes ended a holiday-shortened session Thursday at new highs for the year following upbeat reports on unemployment and durable goods orders. This week, readings on home prices and consumer confidence are among the few economic reports expected.

Stocks have managed to grind higher this month despite lingering concerns about the economic recovery. But the gains have been more subdued than in recent months as investors have held back on taking risks heading into the end of the year. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index is up 66.5 per cent since hitting 12-year lows in March.

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