The approaching holiday season means many will now renew their focus on the retail sector for a clue to strength in the economy. What does this mean to North Dakota? There are many factors working to the positive for ND right now. The exchange rate with Canada is one of them, seen here:
Anybody that knows me is aware of the importance I place on population metrics in the sphere of economics. We do not get demand without people. Supply does not just miraculously appear, people work and make goods and services. So it is not overstatement when I say there are fundamental ways that people matter for economic outcomes. Every so often though, we go into an odd place. I recently attended a presentation by a Chief Economist for a mutual fund company and he showed a graph qualitatively similar to the following,
The Census Bureau released the Advance Sales Report for Retail and Food Services today (available here). While not stellar the nominal increase in sales, year-over-year, was three percent. The Conference Board also released their report today on Consumer Confidence, and it fell significantly (available here). This is why I posted that it matters more what people do than what they feel or say they will do in the future.
We had an active discussion in the last week regarding consumer opinion/sentiment and spending, the actual amounts they buy. Colleagues were surprised by my assertion that the relationship is not as well defined as many believe. Specifically, improvements in sentiment are essentially meaningless. They do not necessarily translate into changes in spending. The graph here shows the two.