Brick & Motar Retail Sales hits 7 Year High!
By Sharon Nunn - Wall Street Journal - December 14, 2017
Americans are spending more than expected this holiday season, fueled by income gains, confidence in the economic outlook, buoyant financial markets and modest inflation.
The boost includes in-store and online spending at brick-and-mortar retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Nordstrom which clocked the largest year-over-year November sales increase in seven years. Home-furnishing stores and electronics-and-appliance stores also logged strong spending numbers, despite competition from online-shopping websites, which also posted robust gains.
“It’s an impressive start to the holiday season and probably the best in the last few years,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, a group that represents retail stores. "When you put the pieces together, job and wage gains, modest inflation, healthy balance sheet and elevated consumer confidence…there’s an improved willingness to spend.”
The National Retail Federation expects consumers nationwide to spend about 4% more during the holiday shopping season than they had in 2016. That would make 2017 the strongest holiday season since 2014. Mr. Kleinhenz said the U.S. appears to be on track to meet that goal.
Dow 24000 and the Trump Boom
By Maria Batiromo Wall Street Journal - Dec 15, 2017 (Excerpts)
For the first time in a long time the world is experiencing synchronized growth, which is why Goldman Sachs and Barclays among others have recently predicted 4% global growth in 2018. The entire world benefits when its largest economy is healthy, and the vibrancy overseas is reinforcing the U.S. resurgence.
As the end of the Trump administration’s first year approaches, it’s a good time to review the progress of the businessman elected on a promise to restore American prosperity. Year One has been nothing short of excellent from an economic standpoint. Corporate earnings have risen and corporate behavior has changed, measured in greater capital investment. Businesspeople tell me that a new approach to regulation is a big factor. President Trump has charted a new course, prioritizing the removal of red tape and rolling back regulations through executive orders. The Federal Register page count is down 32% this year.
Much has changed this year. Companies from Broadcom to Boeing have announced they’ll move overseas jobs back to the U.S. American companies hold nearly $3 trillion overseas and may soon be able to bring that money home without punitive taxation. Businesses have begun to open up the purse strings, which is why things like commercial airline activity are rising substantially as executives seek new opportunities. Companies are looking to invest in growth. The promise of tax relief is raising profit expectations for the S&P 500, now expected to rise by double digits in 2018.
For pass-through businesses, which employ more than half of private-sector workers, a large tax cut would have a significant effect. On the individual side, much of the tax debate has unfortunately not been about economic growth but about trying to ensure that high-income earners don’t benefit from relief—even though the top 10% of earners paid nearly 71% of federal income taxes in 2016. Stephanie Pomboy of MacroMavens notes that the top 20% spend more than the bottom 60%, and it’s worth remembering that consumer spending is two thirds of the economy.House and Senate negotiators are now reportedly planning to cut not just the rates for low-and middle-income taxpayers but the top rate as well. Whether a 37% top rate—without deductions—encourages the top earners to spend more remains to be seen, but the prospect of ending the year with no tax reform at all should focus congressional minds.
After reaching Dow 24000, where can markets and the economy go from here? I’m not going to make predictions, but it stands to reason that the economy is better off when federal policy doesn’t discourage people who have a demonstrated ability to work, earn, spend and invest.