I did a spot with Larry Kudlow tonight to discuss today’s retail sales reports that seems to have been a major impetus behind today’s huge stock market increase. Great to work with my old friend again. Not many know this, but Larry and I have been working together since 1976 when he was Chief Economist at Paine Webber and I was a professor at Claremont Men’s College (known as Claremont McKenna College today).
The US Advance Advance Monthly Sales for Retail and Food Services Report for was down -0.2% for May (+0.3% excluding motor vehicles), and +7.7% over year ago levels (+8.2% excluding motor vehicles.) Analysts focused on the numbers excluding motor vehicles because the supply chain interruptions caused by the Japan earthquake made a significant dent in assembly and sales. The stock market interpreted this number as “no double dip recession”. Nice.
The Chinese retail sales number was even better. May retail sales were +16.9% over year earlier levels and a big jump over April. This was important because US investors have been hyper-ventilating over the idea that China’s growth was about to end. (They did this about once every 6 months. I don’t know why.) The truth is retail sales in China are doing fine, signaling continued strong growth.
The interesting stuff, as usual, is in the details. Among the components of the retail sales index sales of oil products were +42% above year ago levels, jewelry sales were +43%, and grain and edible oil sales were +24%, revealing the effects of rising oil prices, gold prices, and food prices. But middle class luxury items were up big too including cosmetics (+20%), personal care goods (23%) and garments (22%). Government policy is trying to increase the consumption share of GDP relative to the investment share, which should keep retail sales strong in coming years. (If you want to watch a company in this sector, Haier Group makes washing machines and water heaters and is a powerful brand in China. Haier’s revenues should grow 20% next year producing 25% earnings growth–the stock sells for 15x 1011 earnings and 8x 2011 EBITDA in the Hong Kong stock market.
Other supporting growth news this week include:
- +13.5% industrial production growth in May.
- +34.6% real estate investment growth January-May
- +33% Real estate sales growth January-May
- +25.8% fixed asset investment growth January-May.
Less positive news:
- +15% M@ growth in May is a little slower
- +5.5% CPI inflation in May is a big number
China’s central bank raised reserve requirements today again for the 6th time this year (after 6 times last year) to 21.5%. They are doing this to show the government’s concern about inflation, which means rising food and gasoline prices to the man on the street. These tightening moves are not as tough as they would be here in the US–banks are not nearly loaned up anyways. But if they keep beating on this horse long enough it will surely have an impact.
Larry made a point during the show that I think is worth remembering. From our perspective, a little slowing in China and a little lessening of inflation pressures are not necessarily bad things. Slower growth and lower inflation would be easier to maintain.
China’s stock market was up big today after being driven more than 12% lower since April by falling growth worries. I think that market is pretty cheap today, as are the stocks of US companies who sell retail products in China. That’s where I am putting my money.