Excuse me! I thought the holiday season was the shining light that proved we had decoupled from the rest of the world.
The retailers opened for business not only at the customary time of 12:00AM on Black Friday, but also unlocked their doors on the evening of Turkey Day.
Some said it was the opportunity to grab a little more market share. A few, myself included, said it was the height of desperation.
Regardless of your opinion, most agreed (myself excluded) the consumer was back.
The fact that job creation had increased, unemployment was decreasing, the Dow had risen, interest rates stayed low, and new cars were jumping off the lot was enough to convince the pundits that we were off to the retail races.
The experts wanted everyone to believe that Thanksgiving would be a launching pad for an exceptionally strong December shopping season.
After all, Santa comes but once a year. The Commerce Department, unfortunately, became the Grinch that stole Christmas by reporting the simple fact that sales had decreased, not increased.
The Fed’s December Beige Book gave an indication of the problems on the horizon when a North Carolina retailer reported that one-third of layaways had been returned, and that seemed to be the pattern for the rest of the country.
That’s a sure sign that people needed money much more than material things. More bad news followed with first-time unemployment claims rising, proof positive of holiday season layoffs and a financial community announcing further downsizing.
Once again, unemployment is front and center. To add insult to injury, it was then discovered the majority of jobs thought to be created actually came from one bureaucrat’s pencil through the Birth/Death model.
At that point, the consumer’s reluctance to spend began to be understood. How about the stock market?
Ah yes, the stock market. It certainly got the shopping juices flowing, right?
Not so fast. When you notice the overwhelming majority of mutual funds lost money in 2011, it’s no wonder the consumer started running, not walking away from the mall. Finally, consider the world situation in general.
It’s headline news every single day, from war with Iran, to $200 oil, and as an added bonus, both Greece and Italy collapsing. I suppose we could fall back on the auto industry, 2011’s answer to the subprime slime of 2007.
But how many cars can you buy? All in all, it makes pretty good sense that America’s purse strings remain shut.
Contrary to what all the politicians, Wall Streeters, and the Main Street media continue to tout, maybe Mr. and Mrs. Consumer are starting to get the idea that the economic tsunami is for real.