Yesterday, or maybe Friday, I read an article in the financial news on the internet about the new CEO of J.C. Pennies and the changes he was bringing about. The article noted that the striking thing about the stores these days is that there are pitifully few customers. The author was trying to make the case that the new CEO was primarily to blame for this.
Then, yesterday morning the government report on July retail sales came out. First the headline number was an "unexpected" 0.8% gain (after readjusting the previous months number by 0.2% downward, this is getting to be so tedious and repetitious that I won't even go into it, many others already have.)
Zero Hedge had this to say about the report:
The July retail sales beat came as a surprise to many: an 0.8% increase (full series here) at a time when the data was supposed to grow at less than half this would surely be indicative of a potential turnaround in the US economy. Then we decided to do a quick spot check if maybe the Census Bureau had not adopted one of the BLS' worst habits: fudging seasonal adjustment factors. The reason for this is because we happened to notice that Not Seasonally Adjusted (full series here) retail sales data in July actually declined by 0.9% from $405.8 to $402 billion. Of course, if the Census Bureau was using a consistent, or at least remotely comparable July seasonal adjustment factor as it has in the past, this would make sense and we would move on. So we decided to look at what the July seasonal adjustment variance over the past decade has been. What we found would have shocked us if indeed this is not precisely what we expected: with the July seasonal adjustment factor routinely subtracting a substantial amount from the NSA number, averaging at -$5.2 billion, in 2012, for the first time this decade, the seasonal adjustment not only did not subtract, but in fact added "value" to the NSA number, resulting in a seasonally adjusted number that was $1.9 billion higher than the NSA number at $403.9 billion.(link)
Then, Morgan Stanley had this retort to Zero Hedge (musta hit a sore spot, usually they try to ignore them):
From Morgan Stanley's chief economist, David Greenlaw: There is some crazy analysis on Zero Hedge that seems to be getting some traction because a few clients have asked about it (see their chart below).link
Okay, are you still with me? Because finally, we get this article in the financial news .... Wall Street Prepares for more Layoffs, from CNN
See where I am going? Apparently its not just J.C. Pennies who has no customers. In fact, yesterday evening I sauntered up to my local mall, not to buy anything but just to check things out for myself (since the media are getting to be SO reliable these days ....). J.C.Pennies was about empty. But, so Was Macy's. And Sears. And Borders. I also noticed that the woman in the little hookah shop was fast asleep, while the woman at the cell phone shop was playing games on her phone.