Retail sales measure the total receipts at stores that sell durable and nondurable goods
Why do Investors Care?
Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy, so if you know what consumers are up to, you’ll have a pretty good handle on where the economy is headed. Needless to say, that’s a big advantage for investors.
The pattern in consumer spending is often the foremost influence on stock and bond markets. For stocks, strong economic growth translates to healthy corporate profits and higher stock prices. For bonds, the focus is whether economic growth goes overboard and leads to inflation. Ideally, the economy walks that fine line between strong growth and excessive (inflationary) growth, and that’s just what has happened through much of the nineties. For this reason alone, investors in the stock and bond markets have enjoyed huge gains this decade. If and when the party comes to an end, more than likely a change in the economic trend will tip us off.
Retail sales not only give you a sense of the big picture, but also the trends among different types of retailers. Perhaps auto sales are especially strong or apparel sales are showing exceptional weakness. These trends from the retail sales data can help you spot specific investment opportunities, without having to wait for a company’s quarterly or annual report.