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Don't Be Fooled By The Retail Numbers—Just Be Selective

When interest rates are as low as they are and consumers begin to hold back on their spending, you have to wonder about the prospects for the retail sector going forward.With the higher taxes on those earning over $400,000 and other tax increases as a result of the sequestration, we may be seeing some evidence of reduced spending.

The U.S. Department of Commerce said retail sales in March contracted by 0.4% on both a headline and an ex-auto basis, which was below the estimates of flat sales and 0.3%, respectively. This was the second decline in retail sales in the last three months.

While it may be premature to assume a new downtrend for retail sales, I wonder if the decline in take-home pay for some Americans has resulted in less consumer spending. Or it may be the softness of the jobs market that is making consumers nervous. With only 88,000 new jobs created in March, the jobs numbers must have had some impact on consumers and the retail sector.