Concerning the Christmas shopping season, the Associated Press's Anne D'Innocenzio and CNBC's Krystina Gustafson agree: It has stunk.
D'Innocenzio noted that "sales at stores have fallen for the third consecutive week as Americans continue to hold back on spending during what is traditionally the busiest buying period of the year." Gustafson, apparently looking over the same ShopperTrak data as D'Innocenzio, added that "store traffic in the final week before Christmas posted the third straight week of double-digit declines." Neither noted that combination of much lower traffic and relatively slight sales declines appears to indicate that the well-off are splurging, while many families of average means are AWOL. Though it's hard to see how, the keepers of Christmas data at ShopperTrak the National Retail Federation and the International Council of Shopping Centers still believe they will end up in meaningfully positive territory when all is said and done.
On October 3, the National Retail Federation projected that "sales in the months of November and December" will "marginally increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion, over 2012’s actual 3.5 percent holiday season sales growth." But on October 16, it warned that "the average holiday shopper will spend $737.95 on gifts, décor, greeting cards and more, two percent less than the $752.24 they actually spent last year."
Anne D'Innocenzio at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, in a report on the upcoming Christmas shopping season, chose to report the NRF's overall November-December increase, and ignored the obviously more relevant and more recent individual spending expectations. She also held off mentioning the elephant in the room — sharply reduced spending by Obamacare "sticker shock" victims and those who anticipate more of the same during 2014 — until the 19th of her 21 paragraphs (bolds are mine):
What do you do when you're the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, and you're trying to do your level best to described a floundering economy without incurring the wrath of the Obama administration? You search for positive-sounding words to describe what is in reality a marginal situation.
The AP seems to have settled on "steady" and "steadily."
A post-Black Friday weekend dispatch at the Associated Press on November 26 reported that "The holiday shopping season got off to a strong start on Black Friday, with retail sales up 7 percent over last year, according to one survey. Now stores just have to keep buyers coming back without the promise of door-buster savings."
It turns out that the originally reported number was far too rosy. Nevertheless, in both late Sunday and early Monday reports, AP retail writers Mae Anderson and Anne D'Innocenzio treated the actual result, which came in 60 percent lower, as "strong." Each report contained the following paragraph (bolds are mine throughout this post):
The Associated Press's Anne D'Innocenzio is clearly mystified and possibly even upset that consumer confidence as reported by the Conference Board on Wednesday fell sharply to its lowest level since November of last year.
Get a load of the second paragraph's first sentence in the version D'Innocenzio posted late yesterday morning shortly after the report's release, followed by asinine assertions which in effect say that Americans don't understand that things are getting better -- and, as usual, it's all about Dear Leader's reelection (bolds are mine):
On Tuesday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted how the Associated Press's headlined assessments at Anne D'Innocenzio's reports throughout the day on the Conference Board's monthly consumer confidence survey went from "falls" to "dips slightly" to "roughly flat" before ending up at "rosy" -- an evaluation the AP reporter also included in the verbiage of her final dispatch. For the record, the confidence measurement fell to 70.2 in March from 71.6 in February. Bloomberg's final report for the day also obfuscated, with a headline of "Consumer Confidence in U.S. Holds Close to One-Year High" and an opening sentence which read: "Confidence among U.S. consumers in March held close to the highest level in a year, underpinned by an improving labor market" -- anything to keep any indication of drop out of what most people would see. Along the same lines, Rush Limbaugh also picked on Reuters Tuesday for saying that confidence only "eased."
The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Survey came out today. The press release's opening sentence: "Consumer confidence edged upward as more favorable income and job trends offset rising gas prices." Its value (with a different scale) went from 75.3 to 76.2. That's also "roughly" flat, isn't it? Don't be silly. All three wires said that an increase smaller than Tuesday's Conference Board decrease was an unqualified "rise."
I had to make sure that the Conference Board, which issues one of the most closely watched consumer confidence reports each month, didn't issue some kind of update during the day after telling us in the morning that its reading for March came in at 70.2, down from 71.6 in February.
Nothing changed. But oh how the Associated Press's headlines about the Board's reported results changed in successive dispatches authored by the wire service's Anne D'Innocenzio, as seen after the jump from Google News listings:
The Conference Board's September Consumer Confidence Survey came out this morning. Overall, it rose very slightly from a miserable 45.2 to a still-miserable 45.4. Consumers' assessment of near-term prospects slid from 34.3 to in August to 32.5, while their longer-term outlook improved from 52.4 to 54.0.
At the Associated Press (saved here for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes), Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio characterized the element of the report relating to jobs thusly:
One might be an accident. Two indicates a bit of a trend.
Yesterday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted that an early dispatch from Bloomberg on a disappointing consumer confidence report opened by telling readers that "Consumer confidence unexpectedly fell in June to a seven-month low ..." A later version purged the dreaded U-word ("unexpectedly"), opening with "Consumer confidence dropped to a seven-month low in June ..."
It seems that hypersensitivity about use of the U-word -- which during the Obama administration has come to mean "unexpectedly bad" far more often than not -- is also present at the Associated Press. Recently, it seems that the AP has generally avoided the problem by ignoring analysts' predictions when reality reveals that they were far too optimistic. Yesterday, in a more obvious revelation of the wire service's mindset, a pair of Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio's consumer confidence dispatches repeated the U-word purge seen at Bloomberg. What follows are graphic grabs of the early sections of both reports and a related subsequent paragraph within each.
I was quite surprised to see the difference in tone between two different Associated Press reports on retail sales Thursday.
The earlier article, unbylined and time-stamped at 10:43 a.m. at MSNBC (HT Hot Air), has the headline "Nation’s retailers post tepid June sales" and this subheadline: "Concerns about back-to-school shopping, health of recovery." It is decidedly downbeat.
The later AP item, with Anne D'Innocienzio's byline and time-stamped at 4:59 p.m. at the AP's main site, is headlined "Retailers post choppy June, deepen discounts." Compared to the morning story, this account is largely sanitized of macroeconomic negativity and dour words.
Imagine my surprise when I found a bylined version of the earlier report -- time-stamped at 9:37 a.m. Mountain Time (11:37 ET) at an Idaho TV station's web site -- and learned that Ms. D'Innocenzio also wrote that report. Who fed this woman happy pills during the afternoon?
Here are some key paragraphs from the AP retail writer's morning offering (bolds and number tags are mine):