SCOREBOARD: Great hesitation

US retail data sent out a very bullish signal, but Wall Street was mixed as investors remained cautious.

Well those US sales numbers I mentioned the other day weren’t too shabby. Retail sales were 0.5 per cent higher in December, or 0.6 per cent higher less autos and gas, which was nearly double the expectation. This print also follows a fairly decent November outcome of 0.6 per cent as well (ex autos and gas). Complementing that data, business sales were up 1 per cent (November data), while inventories rose as well. Rising sales and inventories, especially with sales stronger than inventories, is a very bullish signal. What you don’t want to see are falling sales and rising inventories – that’s a sign that business is too optimistic and it’s usually followed by a cut in orders, production and the like. The situation we have in this data is usually a signal that economic activity will accelerate.

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