For retail sales, a tiny reversal

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Updated Dec 14, 2009

The latest bit of bright news is Friday’s report that retail sales rose 1 percent in January over December. The Wall Street Journal says economists attribute the blip – following six consecutive months of falling retail sales – “to discounting and easier automobile-financing terms in January. Sales of cars, electronics and clothes all were up. Year-over-year, January retail sales decreased 9.7%.”

For a dose of reality, the weekly roundup from Bob Costello, chief economist at the American Trucking Associations, has some bubble-busters:

  • The number of truckload loads contracted 9.1 percent from November and dropped a whopping 16.4 percent from December 2007.
  • Dry van and tank truck freight each plummeted 24.9 percent during the second half of 2008, only to be surpassed by flatbed freight, which plunged nearly 30 percent.
  • In December, total less-than-truckload shipments contracted 7.2 percent and 11.2 percent from November and December 2007, respectively.

 — Max Heine

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