For the 6th month in a row, US consumers have cut back spending. The December consumer spending data tells us that retailers had a very tough time this holiday shopping season. Consumers reduced their spending by 2.7 percent but if you take out year end deals in the auto sector, retail sales actually fell 3.1 percent, the largest decline in at least 16 years. The Grinch really stole Christmas this year and no one is happy about it. Lower gasoline prices continued to drive down gas station receipts, but weaker spending was seen across the board. The worry now is that more retailers will be forced to file for bankruptcy protection and the latest consumer spending reinforces those fears. With more than 1 million Americans out of work in the last 2 months, concern about job security lead to more nimble shopping over the Christmas holidays.
Import prices dropped for the fifth month in a row, but by less than the market had expected.
Expect fourth quarter GDP to be very weak. Retail sales is one of the primary inputs to GDP and the sharp drop in consumer spending suggests that GDP could have fallen as much as 4 percent. The dollar should continue to weaken against the Japanese Yen but the Euro has its own host of problems. There are reports that Ireland may call in the IMF if the economy weakens. This is yet another reason why the ECB could cut interest rates on Thursday.