Punchinello’s Chronicles

January 14, 2010

Holiday Sales Rise, Fall, Explode

Are you working? Is your life busy? Do you have kids who need to get from here to there? Got dinner to organize and a crisis at work that needs immediate attention? You’re probably like a whole lot of people these days. Work is piling on, companies are cutting hours or adding projects. Everyone’s worried about quitting a job because they may not get another one. In the middle of all this, if you’re lucky or you make a big effort, you may get a bit of news regarding the world.

The news: What an amazing field of business! It used to be that “the news” meant what was new in the world, what was important and worthy of attention, and what was changing. News reporters did exactly that; they reported an event. They strongly focused on who, what, where, when, and how. The “why” was left to the editorial columns or ending segments of a news show.

Nowadays, it seems the “why” is far more important than the details or facts. We have “pundits” who tell us all about why this and that is happening, barely reminding us what happened in the first place. We have interpretations of everything. Someone can make an announcement from the White House that scientists have proven that blue is actually blue. Next thing y’know, we get hours of cable “news” programs telling us what this means to us, what the spokesperson really meant to say, and what this actually means rather than what the facts might say.

Here are two headlines from Google, both in regard to December 2009 retail statistics. These are very important numbers because they show how the Christmas shopping season played out. Many of us know that due to stupid business practices, most large retailers lose money during 9 months of the year, and only make money during the 3 months of the holiday season. Of those 3 months, many retailers make their ONLY profits during the 4-5 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas eve. (Idiots!)

From CNN Money.com

UPDATE: US Holiday Sales Up 2.3% Behind Strong December
January 14, 2010: 01:45 PM ET

From the Wall Street Journal

JANUARY 14, 2010, 2:59 P.M. ET
Retail Sales Fell in December
Jobless Claims Increase in Latest Week

Alright…so which is it? What’s the truth? How are we supposed to make an intelligent assessment of the shopping season? Nobody knows! It’s a mystery!

Here’s what CNN tells us:

NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- U.S. retailers ended up having a decent Christmas, with holiday sales at the high end of modest expectations as consumers let loose some pent up demand and retailers carefully managed inventories and promotions.

Retail sales rose 3.4% in December from the year before, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Combined with a 0.9% gain in November, retail sales rose 2.3% to $509.3 billion year-over-year for the two-month holiday period, to $446.8 billion, the Commerce Department said.

The National Retail Federation, which calculates its figures a bit differently, said retail sales during December and November increased 1.1% to $ 446.8 billion.

Both showings omit auto, gasoline and restaurant tallies and compare to 2009 holiday sales estimates that generally fell between a 1% drop, which the National Retail Federation predicted, and a 2.6% increase projected by retail consulting and analysis firm Customer Growth Partners.

Now here’s what the Wall Street Journal tells us:

WASHINGTON—U.S. retail sales unexpectedly fell in December from the previous month, signaling restraint by consumers during the holidays as the economy wrestles with high unemployment.

Meanwhile, the number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits defied expectations to show an increase last week, although a drop in the four-week moving average showed claims are still trending downward.

Retail sales declined a monthly 0.3% in December, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a 0.5% increase.

November sales, however, were adjusted upward, to a 1.8% monthly increase from a previously reported 1.3% gain.

Consistent with the strong November sales rise, a separate report showed business inventories rose by more than forecast that month, indicating that stocks added to the economy’s expansion in the last quarter of 2009.

“The net result for the two months [November and December] was slightly weaker than expected but not by enough to alter the big-picture view of the consumer,” said Stephen Stanley, an economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland.

So you said you’re a busy person, dealing with hectic work, family, kids, bills, and life? You don’t have time to research or dig into the news? If you’re lucky you maybe see the evening news or catch the late news before going to bed?

Boy are YOU in for a shock!

You can hear about the conservative talk show hosts hollering that the Right is Right! You can hear the liberal entertainment media hollering about the Left is Best! And before you know it, you’re sucked into a shouting match about what’s the best way to spend more government money. What’s the best way to raise taxes. What’s the best way to handle health-care reforms.

None of it matters! It isn’t going to make a hill of beans worth of difference which side of a never-ending argument you think you want to take. That’s because you’re not getting any kind of useful information from the news reports.

Fifty years ago, people had no way other than “the news media” to know what was happening beyond their local community. They only had national newspapers, radio broadcasts, and eventually the national television broadcasts. They had to trust that what they were hearing from journalists and reporters was accurate. Today, with the Internet and cellphone technology, we have many alternative ways to find out what’s going on.

The problem with an increased amount of data (not information) flooding across our senses is that we now have to apply our own, personal thinking and analytic skills. Each of us has to make our own determination of what’s true or not true.

Truth is a statement, made by human beings that’s consistent with objective reality. Facts are observations made by human beings then stated in language. Integrity is a person’s willful decision to comply with their own moral code. That moral code determines whether or not a person will try to be accurate about truth and facts or if they’ll put personal gain and reward above truth and facts.

Both truth and facts are NOT the same thing as the objective reality. Both are passed through the human mind then converted to language. Even so, we ought to be able to get a better statement of at least the facts, right? Sadly, we not only get nothing we can rely on, but whatever we’re given takes place within 30-60 seconds.

Go take a walk around your local malls. We did, the other day, and saw probably 60% of the store space closed and shuttered. The businesses that used to be there are all gone. Talk about a ghost mall! Then look at the “for sale” signs in your neighborhood. Check out the foreclosure signs. Have you been paying attention to the FDIC and the number of banks it’s taken over and sold or closed?

Do you think the Dow Jones Industrial Average is an accurate reflection of American business? How well do you understand the word “equities?” What about “commodities?” The fact is that for the past few years, The Dow number has almost zero connection to any sort of underlying reality. Why do you think the Wall Street banks are in the news so much, with talk about regulations and fees? It’s because a very small number of people are the only ones left trading in the stock market.

You’ve probably heard that China is the next big economy, and they’re making tons of money along with holding most of the US debt. Is that true? How do you know? Have you even heard any discussion on the nightly news about China? What about the asset bubbles that are growing bigger and bigger across all of China?

What about the Greek financial crisis, where they’re about to go bankrupt? Do you know that the main reason we’re in the financial mess today is that the Russian (previously USSR) economy crashed back in 1998? That crash almost wiped out the world’s financial markets, due to the exact same problems being created by Wall Street banks today. Hear about that on the nightly news? No, of course not.

America is a “service” economy. That was the big rage, back in the 1980s. What does it matter that production inventories and manufacturing orders or durable goods are “up?” Who cares if we don’t have any more factories producing something to sell? Instead, we hear about the gross domestic product (GDP) expanding or contracting, believing that we’re hearing about actual stuff people can buy or sell. No, it’s just investment advice, contracts, financial derivatives and other pieces of paper.

It’s hard learning what’s going on. For anyone with the pressure of today’s working environment, they assume that the nightly news is helping us to stay current. We might read a bit of the news, online or via newspapers. We might read a couple of previously credible magazines. And so we think we understand, generally, what’s the current condition of the country, the world, and our local state government.

Sadly, the American people are being kept more and more in the dark. You’re being kept more and more ignorant. Yes, it’s partly a sort of conspiracy to keep you from voting “the wrong way.” But a far larger part of it is that “news” has become a big business. It’s entertainment. It’s about ratings. Think about that as you make decisions regarding how true is the stuff you’re hearing in “the news.”

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Holiday Sales Rise, Fall, Explode « Punchinello's Chronicles […]

    Pingback by Rates on 30-year home loans fall to 5.06 pct | Bad Credit Mortgages — January 16, 2010 @ 12:35 pm | Reply


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