Trader Talk

Is US Economy Stronger Than Anyone Is Giving It Credit For?

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What's up with retail sales? February retail sales came in up 1.1 percent, above consensus of up 0.6 percent, with positive revisions in January. What happened to the idea that the slow pace of tax refunds would weigh on retail sales?

Core retail sales were up 0.4 percent, also above estimates.

Regardless: Retail sales are about 30 percent of consumer spending, so this is good news for U.S. gross domestic product. Indeed, Barclays immediately came out and lifted first-quarter GDP estimates to a 2.2 percent gain (quarter-over-quarter), from 1.9 percent.

And remember: The Easter holiday is in March this year, not April, so March retail sales could surprise on the upside, as well.

The dollar jumped on the news and is near a six-month high; the dollar Index has been on a six-week tear, up 4.5 percent. It's outperformed the euro, sterling, and yen in that time period. Better economic news — we've seen better numbers on nonfarm payrolls, ISM, and consumer confidence — seems to have been the main driver.

Bottom line: The U.S. economy is outperforming the rest of the world, and that is starting to be reflected in the dollar — and the stock market.

The Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook also rose. Confidence in an economic rebound increased: 72 percent expect their companies' sales to rise in the next six months, up from 58 percent in December. And 38 percent plan to boost capital spending, but just 29 percent plan to boost hiring.

The markets seem to believe that some kind of "mini-Grand Bargain" will be coming. Still, the guys who watch it most carefully continue to believe it is all a lot of hooey: Politico ran a story saying talk of a Grand Bargain was "overhyped," and Greg Valliere at Potomac Research called the president's recent efforts a "Charm Offensive Fake-Out."


1) If the Dow Jones Industrial Average closes higher today, it would be the first nine-day winning streak in 16 years (!)

2) Silver Spring Networks, which provides software and hardware to allow utilities to connect to smart grids, priced 4.8 million shares at $17. That was the middle of the $16 to $18 price range, but the 4.8 million shares offered were well above the 3.7 million initially floated.

3) Europe: Italian elections hurt Italian stocks, but rest of Europe was not dragged down. Maybe it's the calming presence of the European Central Bank's Mario Draghi, but the Italian elections, while hurting Italian stocks, is not killing Europe:

European markets this year:

UK 9.5%
Portugal 6.7%
Greece 5.6%
France 5.0%
Germany 4.7%
Spain 3.6%
Italy -3.2%

4) Express tumbled 13 percent pre-market after the retailer provided downbeat guidance due to a slower store traffic and consumer spending in February. Express sees first-quarter earnings per share of between $0.34 and $0.38, below the Street's $0.46 a share view.

By CNBC's Bob Pisani