Post Traumatic Shopping

That adrenaline rush from a near-miss. Makes you feel so alive. You just survived a pandemic. Kept your job too. And your portfolio survived. More adrenaline, your brokerage account is bigger than ever. Retirement accounts too. Mix in some dopamine as well. Let’s go shopping. Revenge shopping. I’m bout to be stuntin’ on fools all summer.

Brian Wesbury from First Trust tells us that retail sales are now higher than if there had been NO PANDEMIC AT ALL. POW!

massive government “stimulus” checks have put the economy in a strange position, where retail sales are far above where they would be if COVID had never happened, even as the production side of the economy remains  relatively weak.

Friday’s report on the retail sector showed that retail sales were unchanged in April, remaining at essentially the same lofty level they were in March.  However, the lack of an increase in April shouldn’t have been much of a surprise.  Even with no increase in April, retail sales were 17.9% higher than they were in February 2020, pre-COVID.  To put this in perspective, that’s the fastest gain for any 14-month period since 1978-79.  A key difference?  That period in 1978-79 had double-digit inflation, versus the 3.1% increase in consumer prices since February 2020.

Another way to think about how high retail sales have been lately is that if COVID had never happened and sales since February 2020 had increased at a more normal 4.5% per year pace, it would have taken until November 2023 for retail sales to reach where they were in March and April this year.  In other words, sales have arrived at the recent level about two and half years ahead of schedule.

That’s crazy. But understandable. You want to look good for the Summer of Love, don’t you?