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Retail sales numbers for November were released today by the Census Bureau. As we've come to expect, the monthly retail data are treated as strong. I'll concede that the retail numbers we've seen this year are good ... insofar as good is the opposite of bad, and they haven't fallen so they aren't bad. However, by any serious analytic measure, the numbers that we see are not strong.

Here are plots of monthly retail sales going back to 2007.

Click to enlarge

The data in this chart is probably what causes some pundits and headline writers to claim retail sales are strong. But ask yourselves why retail sales are never analyzed in real dollars? We only ever talk about GDP in real dollars, not nominal. To measure the true position of retail sales we need to look at the data in real dollars. This rarely occurs for some reason.

Click to enlarge

The only qualifier to the real dollar chart is that the CPI is normally released after the retail sales, so I have assumed a zero CPI in November. There are no excuses for the MSM to ignore real dollar sales. The data is readily available. I use the RSAFSNA and CPIAUCNS series from the St. Louis Fed (FRED). Real dollar retail sales show an econmy that remains well short of pre-crash spending levels.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.