February 13, 2014

As Retail Sales Figures Get Revised Down, AP Continues to Promote Myth That Economy Was ‘Strong’ at End of 2013

It isn’t at all difficult to spot the absurdity in Josh Boak’s 9:45 a.m. Associated Press report today on retail sales, which declined 0.4 percent from December on a seasonally adjusted basis.

His first paragraph claims that “consumer spending at the end of 2013″ had “momentum,” while his second shows that the there was none (bolds are mine):

JoshBoakAPwide

Cold weather across much of the nation contributed to a drop in retail sales in January. Americans spent less on autos and clothing and at restaurants – a decline that suggests that momentum from consumer spending at the end of 2013 has tailed off.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales fell a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent last month. That marked the second straight decline after a 0.1 percent drop in December.

On top of that, November’s growth was only 0.2 percent, down from an original +0.7% reported in mid-December.

I guess in Josh Boak’s world, snails have “momentum” — even ones which are moving in reverse.

Boak’s defenders might point out that personal consumption expenditures in the first version of the report on gross domestic product growth released late last month grew significantly. But today’s revision may indicate that the consumption element of GDP is on its way to being revised down. Even if a revision doesn’t occur, the GDP report is for the fourth quarter. It would appear, at least before revisions, that a pretty strong October made up for a mediocre November and a weak December.

The AP’s Christopher Rugaber also went with the “strong end of the year meme” when he discussed consumer spending in his 9:44 a.m. coverage of the government’s jobless claims report (seasonally adjusted claims rose to 339,000 from 331,000 the previous week):

Extremely cold weather discouraged shoppers in January and caused a 0.4 percent drop in retail sales, the Commerce Department said in a separate report. Sales in December were also revised lower. The data indicated that consumer spending has lost momentum after a strong finish last year.

The evidence that the economy had “a strong finish” at the end of the year is weak to non-existent.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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