Consumers surprised economists by shrugging off the government shutdown and hitting the stores with gusto in October. Now the question is whether they will continue to open their wallets for the all-important holiday season. The NRF (formerly known as the National Retail Federation) predicts that holiday sales will rise 3.9 percent, a touch higher than the 3.5 percent growth seen last year. Because NRF is a trade group, many analysts discount the optimism. Scrooge alert: Economists at IHS Global Insight and Morgan Stanley believe that 2013 could be the weakest holiday season since 2008 and considering that holiday sales can make up one-fifth or more of annual sales, that would be bad news for the entire industry.
Retailers themselves are all over the map - Macy’s and TJX, the parent of TJ Maxx, HomeGoods and Marshalls, anticipate a solid quarter, while Best Buy and Wal-Mart are not so sure. One thing is clear: there will be fierce competition for consumers’ hard-earned dollars this holiday season, which due to a quirk in the calendar, is six days shorter than usual.
Retailers are offering holiday deals and layaway offers earlier than last year, hoping that this year’s trend of consumers spending on large ticket items, will spread across other categories, like clothing, toys and general merchandise. And by now, the idea of “Black Friday” seems positively passé, with Wal-Mart, KMart and Best Buy opening at 6pm on Thanksgiving Day; and Target, Sears, Macy’s, JC Penney and Kohl’s opening at 8pm. “Terrific Thursday” doesn’t have the same ring as “Black Friday”, but you get the gist – despite everyone complaining that it is sacrilege to open on Thanksgiving Day, consumers are rewarding retailers for rescuing them from those turkey-induced L-Tryptophan highs.
For those who don’t partake in the sport of fighting crowds in the physical stores, don’t worry -- the brick and mortar retailers have fully embraced their online competitors to provide shoppers with ample opportunity to escape their families without leaving their homes.
And a final bit of good news for the 38.9 million road warriors out there, who AAA expects will travel by car this week: gas prices are about $0.20 cheaper than they were a year ago.
MARKETS: Milestones abound! The Dow and S&P 500 closed above big, round numbers last week (16,000 and 1800), as stocks enter the final stretch of the year with tailwinds.
- DJIA: 16,064, up 0.7% on week, up 22.6% on year (7th straight week of gains)
- S&P 500: 1804, up 0.4% on week, up 26.6% on year (on pace for its biggest annual gain since 1998, when it climbed 31%)
- NASDAQ: 3991, up 0.1% on week, up 32.2% on year
- 10-Year Treasury yield: 2.75% (from 2.71% a week ago; Treasurys have lost 2% on a total-return basis this year)
- Dec Crude Oil: $94.84, up 1.1% on week
- Feb Gold: $1244.60, down 3.4% on week
- AAA Nat'l average price for gallon of regular Gas: $3.26
THE WEEK AHEAD:
10:00 Pending Home Sales Index
NY bankruptcy court considers merger of American Airlines and US Airways
8:30 Housing Starts
9:00 FHFA House Price Index
9:00 Case-Shiller Home Price Index
10:00 Consumer Confidence
8:30 Durable Goods Orders
8:30 Jobless Claims
9:45 Chicago Purchasing Managers Index
9:55 Consumer Sentiment
10:00 Leading Indicators
Thurs 11/28: US MARKETS CLOSED FOR THANKSGIVING
Fri 11/29: BLACK FRIDAY
1:00 US Markets close early