Economists predict a boom in October’s retail sales, aided
by rising gasoline prices and early holiday shopping.
Retail sales are expected to rise 1.5%, up from September’s
0.7% gain, according to economists polled by Dow Jones. Excluding autos, sales
are forecasted to rise 1%, compared to the 0.8% increase a month earlier, Dow
The Census Bureau will release the retail sales report on
Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 8:30 a.m. ET.
“There is an expectation of a strong number,” said Gargi
Chaudhuri, head of iShares investment strategy Americas at BlackRock. “That’s
the narrative of the last two weeks, that this is going to be a
stronger-than-expected retail sales.”
Economists have been ratcheting up their forecasts, and the
consensus number for the October report has been rising.
Barclays chief U.S. economist Michael Gapen said a strong
number will be an important signal that the economy is back on track. Gapen
expects a 1.2% gain.
Potential insight into economic growth
The October retail sales report is one of the earliest data
readings for fourth-quarter gross domestic product. Gapen expects the economy to
expand by 5% in the fourth quarter, after the surprisingly slow 2% pace of the
If the number is as expected, “what it tells us is whether
there’s momentum that was restored at the end of the third quarter and heading
into the fourth quarter, we’re in pretty good shape,” Gapen said. “It would be
another data point that confirms the soft patch story rather than the
The retail sales report comes after a very strong October’s
jobs report with 531,000 payrolls added.
Chaudhuri said besides shaking off the latest Covid
concerns, consumers may be spending earlier than normal, ahead of the holiday
period to make sure they are able to find the gifts they want to buy. “The
reason obviously is the story around supply chain disruptions have been so top
of mind for consumers,” she said.
Clues into future inflation
Consumers have been worried about inflation. Indeed, the
consumer price index for October was up 6.2%, the highest in more than 30
With those rising inflation concerns, consumer sentiment has
been souring. The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index, released
Friday, showed a surprise drop to a 10-year low of 66.8 in the preliminary
November report, from 71.7 in October.
Investors will be watching to see if the retail sales report
is providing kindling for further increases in inflation.
Michael Schumacher, head of macro strategy at Wells Fargo
Securities, said investors in fed funds futures Monday continue to push forward
expectations for a rate hike. Now, the June futures contract shows strong odds
of a rate hike.
After last week’s strong CPI data, traders moved their bets
to July from September for the first interest rate hike.
“There’s some expectation the Fed could accelerate
tapering,” Schumacher said. The central bank has said it would taper back its
monthly bond purchases, which have helped it prop up the economy through the
pandemic. This quantitative easing program is expected to end in the middle of
next year. Economists say once that program is completed, the Fed would be on
track to raise interest rates.
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