Official January figures released this week showed U.S. retail sales jumping by 3 percent. This marks the greatest increase since March 2021 and reverses a 1.1 percent decline since the end of 2022. Department stores also saw an impressive 17.5 percent jump. That’s remarkable, given that the post-holiday shopping season often sees slow sales figures.
The New York Times reports consumer spending drove the labor market’s sustained strength. Wages have remained solid, and people are flush with cash. Simon Property Group — which runs malls nationwide — reported optimism about retailer performance. In a recent analyst call, CEO David Simon said that his company feels “really good about our retailers.” He also reportedly indicated that colleagues asked about signs of consumer demand pullback say it hasn’t “really happened.”
The Fed raised interest rates in 2022, aiming to restrain the economy. Housing markets have cooled, but it appears consumer spending is also pulling back. But recent retail sales may show Fed rate hikes haven’t affected consumer spending as much as some analysts feared.
Meanwhile, Fed officials have hinted interest rates could rise if inflation isn’t reduced.
Other economists are skeptical of these new retail figures, reports the Times. They believe they could be anomalous and caused by unusually warm January weather. Sales may drop again as temperatures return to normal in the coming months.