Journalism: Negativity spin on retail sales

Journalism: Negativity spin on retail sales

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A month over month drop in retail sales has predicted exactly zero of the recessions during the last five years. Just look at the chart and then read the headline and story, below.

Retail sales dropped 0.3% last month as households cut back spending on motor vehicles, building materials, hobbies and online purchases.

Source: US retail sales fall in a sign that consumer economy could be cracking

Retail sales were, in fact, up 4.1% year over year, from September 2018, and up 4.7% year over year when excluding gasoline sales. August sales were revised upwards.

The media, however, is required to always spin stories into negativity.  At some point, the longest economic expansion in U.S. history will end and many of us are preparing for a downturn. However, this news story is written based on “well, everyone knows we are headed into a recession” conventional wisdom, which is often wrong. (No one has come up with a successful and repeatable method of predicting recessions.) But such stories often act as propaganda – persuading the target to assume the worst and literally drive the economy into a recession, becoming a self fulfilling news report.

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