Surprise: Despite Bleak Predictions, Retail Sales Climb in January

     According to the media and some economists it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Our consumer-driven economy was supposed to show a slowdown in spending not an increase.

     That goes to show you can’t believe all the economic forecasts of doom and gloom put out by the media. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, retail sales increased 0.3 percent in January after showing a 0.4 percent unrevised decline in December.

     “[R]emember all that talk about a recession and the consumer is slowing down and, ‘Oh, my lord, things are going down the drain’,” said CNBC “Squawk on the Street co-host Mark Haines on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

     Haines continued on the February 13 broadcast, “Well, this morning we find out the retail sales, instead of being down three-tenths of 1 percent, as all the pointy-headed economists predicted, up three-tenths of 1 percent.”

      According to a story posted on The Wall Street Journal Web site on February 13, economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires anticipated a 0.4 percent drop in retail sales for January – a sign that things weren’t as bad as even the experts thought.

     The Journal called the increase “a positive sign for the economy.”

     However, that positive data wasn’t enough for “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski who demanded to be “convinced” that the economy isn’t in trouble:

Brzezinski: “That’s a good sign. I’m still not convinced, convince me.”

Haines: “Convinced of what?”

Brzezinski: “Well, that we’re not headed to a recession and we’re not heading to hard times.”

Haines: “Well, if you believe that, that’s your problem.”

Brzezinski: “Well, no I’d like to be convinced otherwise, Mark.”

Haines: “You can believe whatever you want. It’s not my job to convince you otherwise … What do I have to do here?”

     Haines wasn’t entirely rosy. He reminded “Morning Joe” viewers the U.S. is still in an economic slowdown – even though the economy has not met the technical criteria of a recession. Recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth.

     “There is ample evidence to support either theory [economic downturn or recovery]. I’m in the camp that says it really doesn’t matter whether it’s technically a recession or not. It’s a slowdown. We’re growing slower than we were. That feels bad enough. You know I think you’re being a little anal if you have to ‘label’ it with something. It’s just not really a good economy right now. But, it’ll get better,” said Haines. “And, the retail sales show that the consumers are hanging in there, that’s the most important thing.”