The final push for holiday shopping is here! You have a mere 12 days to brave the mall or place your order online.
And so far, the numbers are looking fairly solid for retailers. The Commerce Department recently reported that retail sales rose 0.7% in November, higher than above economists’ estimates of a 0.6% rise. As for core sales, which exclude vehicle and gasoline sales and correspond more closely with the consumer spending component of GDP, they increased a solid 0.5% after their 0.7% gain in October.
This was a continued positive development for retail sales and the consumer and continues the strength that we saw in October. Cars and electronics were the two big winners in November, and this better-than-expected report suggests that the holiday shopping season may be stronger than expected.
And retailers are taking note—in October, wholesalers increased their stockpiles by 1.4%, strongly above the 0.3% consensus forecast.
This was the biggest monthly gain in wholesale inventories since October 2011. Analysts expected inventory growth to slow in the fourth quarter as companies reduced their inventory building in response to slowing demand. But the strong increase in October suggests businesses expect to see solid sales in the coming months.
In addition, business inventories advanced 0.7% in October. Economists were expecting business stockpiles to gain just 0.3%, so this was a solid beat to expectations. This also was an uptick from the 0.6% gain in September and was the biggest gain in nine months.
Of course, the flip side to this inventory surge is that GDP growth typically stalls in the following quarter, so economists are largely expecting slower fourth-quarter GDP. So keep a close eye on holiday sales, particularly because the American consumer is responsible for about two-thirds of the U.S. economy.
I’ll continue to keep an eye out for how holiday sales are doing and see if this presents any investing opportunities.