AP's Rugaber Virtually Alone in Cheering Nov. Retail Sales Others Call 'Disappointing'

Today's Advance Monthly Retails Sales Report for November from the Census Bureau came in with a seasonally and shopping-day adjusted 0.2% increase over October. Analysts expected 0.6%, and a whole host of them described the result as "disappointing," as shown here in a Google News Search for the past 24 hours on ["retail sales" disappoint"] (typed exactly as indicated between brackets; as of 6:40 p.m. ET, over 1,100 results were returned, but only about 400 are from after the report's release).

That didn't stop the Associated Press's Christopher Rugaber and the wire service's headline writers, in separate items at 11:44 a.m. and 3:05 p.m., from getting really close to in essence claiming, as Kevin Bacon's character Chip Diller did in "Animal House," that "all is well."


First, from 11:44 a.m. (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Retail sales rise for sixth straight month

The start of the crucial holiday shopping season in November helped fuel the sixth straight monthly increase in retail sales. Gift-buying Americans spent more on clothing and electronics, and sales of autos and furniture also rose.

Still, the overall gain was the smallest since June. Consumers pulled back on some purchases unrelated to holiday shopping, such as groceries and building materials.

Retail sales rose 0.2 percent in November, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That was lower than October's gain, which was revised up to show a 0.6 percent increase.

Even so, more spending on retail goods shows the economy is continuing to grow steadily, if slowly.

Then, 3:05 p.m., which incorporated news from two other government reports which were published later in the day:

Retail sales are helping economy grow consistently

Economic growth is picking up in the final three months of the year, fueled by higher consumer spending, rising business stockpiles and modest increases in hiring.

The start of the holiday shopping season in November helped produce the sixth straight monthly increase in retail sales. Gift-buying Americans spent more on clothing and electronics, and sales of autos and furniture also rose.

To be fair, Rugaber tempered the enthusiasm in later paragraphs. To be critical, those paragraphs are the ones less likely to be read by news readers or to be heard by radio listeners or TV viewers at subscribing AP outlets.

Here's just one contrasting of the tone found elsewhere from CNN Money:

Retail sales rise, but disappoint

Retail sales picked up in November ... but not by much. The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that retail sales were up 0.2% compared to October, growth that fell well short of the 0.6% increase forecast by economists surveyed by Briefing.com.

The story was similar when auto sales were excluded. Those sales increased by only 0.2%, well off the 0.5% forecast.

The disappointing numbers do not bode well for retailers that depend on strong holiday sales -- despite a recent wave of optimism in the industry.

Black Friday shoppers showed up in droves and spent a record amount of money over the Thanksgiving weekend -- but that doesn't mean holiday sales momentum will continue through Christmas.

One commentator indicated that today's report provides reason to believe that fourth-quarter growth, which many have been thinking will be an annualized 3% or greater, will be more like 2.5%.

All is not well, Chris, even you do work for the Administration's, er, the Associated Press.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.