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By Jason Stipp | 11-17-2011 12:00 AM

Dare We Say the Data Looked Good?

Encouraging economic data was reported this week for retail, housing, employment, and price inflation, says Morningstar's Bob Johnson.

Jason Stipp: I'm Jason Stipp for Morningstar. I almost don't want to say it for fear of jinxing it, but we actually saw some pretty good economic data this week.

Here with me to dig into the numbers and talk about the implications of that data is Morningstar's Bob Johnson, director of economic analysis.

Thanks for joining me, Bob.

Bob Johnson: Great to be here.

Stipp: So, we did see some good data this week on a number of fronts, and I think the one we want to start with is the consumer front, because we've talked over and over again about how the consumer is the most important thing to really keep an eye on right now. We got some retail sales data. How good did it look to you?

Johnson: Well, the numbers were much better than expected. I had a little bit of worry that the number would be a little soft this time around, but we actually got almost seven-tenths a percent of growth. So, that was a great number, and that's a one-month number. So, that was really good to see and it was a broad-based strength in the retail spending data, and it really surprised people on the upside; the consumer has not given up by any stretch of the imagination.

Stipp: So this data is from last month. Do you have any current data that would tend to suggest that this trend might continue?

Johnson: Sure. Now, this is a comprehensive government report. It includes the autos and gasoline and restaurants--all of those are rolled into that number. So, it's the most comprehensive report. So, it's really good to see that number, and it does mean a lot.

Now, I do look at a weekly set of numbers, as you know, the International Council of Shopping Centers that releases numbers each and every week. And that metric has also been good the past several weeks. So, it's not just that October was a particularly good month. In fact, the week that included Veterans Day was a particularly strong period. I think there were a lot of promotions going on during that period, but that week was a particularly good number in the series. So, the consumer is really, probably if anything, accelerating some of their spending in the last couple of weeks compared to October.

Stipp: So we also got some inflation data this week, and I know one thing that can make consumer or retail sales look better than they actually are is if prices increase. So, are the price increases that we're seeing in the market, are they responsible for that boost in retail sales?

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