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Economy in Brief

Weekly Chain Store Sales Improve Sharply
by Tom Moeller January 5, 2010

The Holiday spirit, or perhaps after-Christmas discounts, prompted a surge in spending late in 2009. During the latest week, chain store sales jumped 1.5% from the prior week to lift sales to the highest level since August 2008. The late-year surge raised y/y sales growth to 2.5% which was just below the firmest since the middle of 2008.

The ICSC-Goldman Sachs retail chain-store sales index is constructed using the same-store sales (stores open for one year) reported by 78 stores of seven retailers: Dayton Hudson, Federated, Kmart, May, J.C. Penney, Sears and Wal-Mart. During the last ten years there has been a 69% correlation between the year-to-year growth in chain store sales and the growth in general merchandise retail sales. The weekly figures are available in Haver's SURVEYW database.

Perhaps heralding the sales improvement was the leading indicator of chain store sales. It slipped marginally early in December but its level was near the highest since January of last year.

This composite leading economic indicator is compiled from four series: (1) the MBA's volume index of mortgage applications
for home purchase (2) the ABC News/Money magazine's survey of consumer buying conditions (3) new filings for jobless benefits and (4) the 30-year government bond yield.

The Current State of the Economy and a Look to the Future (With Reference to William ‘Sidestroke’ Miles, W. Somerset Maugham, Don Ameche and Kenneth Arrow) is the title of yesterday's speech by Dallas Fed Governor Richard W. Fisher and it can be found here.

ICSC-UBS (SA, 1977=100) 01/01/10 12/25/09 12/18/09 Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Total Weekly Chain Store Sales 497.6 490.1 488.1 2.5 % 0.1% 1.4% 2.8%
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