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Sometimes charts are boring, and sometimes they are telling–which makes them interesting.  This chart maps the trend in Retail Sales over the last 22 years, overlaid with periods when our U.S. economy experienced periods of recession.  What strikes me in this picture is that over the last two decades, the two previous recessionary eras coincided with a stagnation in consumer spending–when Retail Sales failed to grow at a two percent annual rate.  This year, we have dipped down below that number, and we continue to hang down under that 2% mark.  Retail Sales are important because that’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.  It’s not a survey that can be impacted by a caller’s bad mood like some other prognosticators.  This is showing that we aren’t spending money, and a lack of spending leads to a lack of productivity.  The “velocity of money” comes to a halt.  So go buy some stuff and then give yourself a high-five for being patriotic.  Better yet, go buy a house and get a big loan and then I’ll go buy some stuff. 🙂