American consumers: start your engines! This weekend kicks off the holiday shopping season and with just 33 days to go before Christmas, retailers and economists alike have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. Back in October, the National Retail Foundation predicted holiday sales in November and December (excluding autos, gas and restaurant sales) would increase 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion, a full percentage point higher than 2013’s actual 3.1 percent increase during that same time frame and above the 2.9 percent growth over the past 10 years.
Other estimates have been similarly upbeat. Deloitte’s annual holiday forecast suggests sales will increase 4 to 4.5 percent, boosted by a 13 percent increase in consumer spending across all categories to $1,299 this holiday season. Analysts at Morgan Stanley believe that it will be a jolly holiday season, helped by an increase in personal income and wilder availability of credit. And research from Capital Economics shows that with employment rising and a fall in gas prices boosting real incomes, “this holiday shopping season could be the best in nine years”.
Regardless of the actual results, what is clear is that the nature of the holiday season is changing. NRF notes that holiday sales represent approximately 19.2 percent of the industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion, but for some retailers, the two-month season can account for almost 40 percent of total annual revenues. Perhaps that is why so many big names have extended the season by opening on Thanksgiving Day and even earlier - Wal-Mart started its holiday promotions last Friday!
With a full week to shop, the influence of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to wane. That said, digital is where the growth lies. Shop.org expects 2014 online holiday sales to increase between 8 and 11 percent over last holiday season to as much as $105 billion. But that’s not the whole story: Deloite found that 50 percent of in-store retail sales, or $345 billion, will be influenced by digital interactions this holiday season.
For those inclined to get a jump on shopping, research from Adobe Digital has found that online prices will hit rock bottom on Thanksgiving Day, where consumers will see an average discount of 24 percent. (The average item will be 20 percent off during Thanksgiving week; prices will increase the Tuesday after Cyber Monday.) The second best day to shop online is the Monday before Thanksgiving.
Finally, despite the pain of the past credit bubble bursting, Americans are still willing to go into hock during the holiday season. According to a survey commissioned by NerdWallet and conducted by Harris Poll, families with household incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 will take an average of 2.6 months to pay off holiday debt, whereas families with household incomes below $50,000 will take an average of 2 months.
MARKETS: Stocks reached a milestone last week: For the first time since the dotcom bubble (14 years), the S&P 500 hit a new all-time, inflation-adjusted high.
- DJIA: 17,810, up 1% on week, up 7.4% YTD
- S&P 500: 2063, up 1.2% on week, up 11.6% YTD (45th record close of 2014)
- NASDAQ: 4712, up 0.5% on week, up 12.8% YTD
- Russell 2000: 1172, flat on week, up 0.9% YTD
- 10-Year Treasury yield: 2.31% (from 2.31% a week ago)
- January Crude Oil: $76.51, up 0.9% on the week (snaps a seven-week losing streak)
- December Gold: $1197.70, up 1% on the week
- AAA Nat'l average price for gallon of regular Gas: $2.83 (from $3.24 a year ago; AAA projects 46.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving weekend, the highest volume since 2007 and a 4.2 percent increase over 2013. Almost 90 percent will celebrate the holiday with a road trip.)
THE WEEK AHEAD: Despite the Thanksgiving holiday, it will be a big week for economic data.
8:30 Chicago Fed National Activity Index
10:30 Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey
8:30 Q3 GDP – 2nd Estimate (Initial reading: +3.5%)
9:00 Case-Schiller Home Price Index
10:00 Consumer Confidence
8:30 Weekly Claims
8:30 Durable Goods Orders
8:30 Personal Income and Spending
9:55 Consumer Sentiment
10:00 New Home Sales
Thurs 11/28: Thanksgiving Day: ALL US Markets closed
The OPEC oil cartel meets in Vienna: Most experts say that even if the group were to agree on an export cut, it is unlikely to have a meaningful effect on prices, due to increased production by non-members
Fri 11/29: Black Friday
1:00 US markets close early