December is traditionally a strong month, but as we begin we are getting:
1) more weak data from China, with PMI down to 50.3, the lowest reading since March. Many big material names like BHP Billiton were down big last week—about 10 percent—on concerns China’s growth is slowing.
2) more weak data from Europe, with manufacturing contracting in Germany, France and Italy, the three largest countries. New orders fell at the fastest pace in 19 months. These markets have also held up on stimulus relief from the European Central Bank.
3) generally disappointing U.S. retail sales over Thanksgiving weekend. The National Retail Federation said total spending fell 11 percent, with the average shopper spending about 6 percent less than Thanksgiving weekend last year.
Everyone blamed it on early promotions and online sales.
There’s no question there was a pull forward this year: This should be called Black November instead of Black Friday. Target was doing promotions on and off through the month, but particularly on Friday.Wal-Mart had a whole week of promotions before Black Friday.
Footwear, boots, accessories and electronics seem to have sold well. Apparel has not.
However, IBM estimated that online sales on Thanksgiving increased 14.2 percent, while Black Friday online sales were up 9.5 percent. Bottom line: Online sales are starting to creep toward 15 percent of total sales. Mobile is definitely changing things.
So much for lower oil prices helping the consumer. Oh I know, it’s supposed to help discounters and dollar stores and lower end restaurants. Sure, Denny’s was up Friday, and Cracker Barrel and Texas Roadhouse were up 4 or 5 percent on Friday.
Remember, everyone is betting on a year-end rally.