Last Friday, after the Census Bureau reported that retail sales, which drive 70% of U.S. economic growth, rose four-tenths of 1% in August, headlines abruptly turned positive.
The retail data quelled growing concerns reflected in the press about the inversion of the yield curve, the 11-month plunge in manufacturing sector activity, the trade-war with China, and a global economic slowdown hurting the U.S. economy.
Retail sales increased by four tenths of 1% in August over July driven by a surge in auto sales. Total retail sales in August were 4.1% higher than in August 2018, which is a strong jump considering the low inflation rate of about 1.8%. For the three-month period from June through August 2019, retail sales were up 3.7% from the same period a year ago, showing momentum slowing only slightly.
Stock market volatility increased lately. Independent economist Fritz Meyer says declines of 2% have been occurring nearly once a month. The spate of spikes in volatility started in May 2018, recurred in a 19.8% plunge in December 2018, and two more spikes in fear struck in May and August 2019. All of the spikes in fear came after Federal Reserve pronouncements on interest rate policy and none were related to the U.S.-China trade or other fears in the headlines.
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