May 17 2016
When is a door not a door?
The answer, of course, is: When it’s ajar.
Investors and analysts were trying to find the answer to a different riddle last week: When are strong retail sales not strong retail sales?
The answer is: When the retailers are department stores.
Consumers spent more in April than they have in more than a year. Commerce Department data showed April’s retail sales improved by 1.3 percent month-to-month and 3.0 percent year-to-year. Yet, several large department stores reported poor first quarter earnings and weren’t optimistic about the future, according to Barron’s.
The Wall Street Journal pointed out Internet and mobile app purchasing increased by 2.4 percent in April and was up 10.2 percent for the past 12 months, while purchases made in department stores fell by 1.7 percent for the last 12 months. The Journal said there is no easy explanation for lagging department store sales:
“Executives at traditional large retailers struggled to explain the slump, which for some companies was their worst since the recession. Some pointed to a decrease in mall traffic, while others said shoppers were spending more on items their stores don’t sell such as entertainment, travel, and food.”
The Journal also said strong consumer spending focused some economists’ attention on the Federal Reserve and the likelihood it will take actions intended to increase interest rates in mid-June. However, CNBC reported the probability of a rate increase in June remained low.
- Data as of 5/13/161-WeekY-T-D1-Year3-Year5-Year10-Year
- Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks)-0.0050.001-0.0250.0780.0890.047
- Dow Jones Global ex-U.S.-0.6-2.6-16.1-3.2-2-0.9
- 10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)1.7NA22.214.171.124.2
- Gold (per ounce)-1.819.24.6-4-3.46.3
- Bloomberg Commodity Index1.37.5-19.5-13.9-12-7.3
- DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index-126.96.36.199.611.27.1
*Indices are unmanaged and investors cannot invest directly in an index.
*Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association
*S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.