My mother named me Merry because she wanted me to be happy - and I am. But not with the retail sales number released yesterday. We're all eager to see legs under the economic recovery, and none more than me. But when the market runs up and closes at its highest since the Great Recession began, partly because retail sales are up, looking at the data behind it gives me pause, as it should you, too.
Retail sales were up from a revised 0.6% to 1.1%. Sounds great. But, that includes higher prices for gasoline, and no one with a pulse thinks higher gas prices are cause for celebration. Gasoline sales were up a full 3.3%, clothing and building materials were up 1.8% and 1.4%, respectively.
A strong increase in clothing and building materials bodes well for a strengthening economy. Although I hate to be perceived as a modern-day Cassandra, furniture sales were down -1.2%, and general merchandise was down -0.1%. These last two data points don't inspire confidence that we're out of the woods. Coupled with rocketing gas prices and a still crippled employment market, things may not be as rosy as they seem.
I'll be the first to herald a strong economy - we're long overdue. But until real unemployment drops significantly, I'm less than sanguine.