Retail sales increased 1.6 percent in March. The "surge" is being called unexpected, and this time it actually is: Egghead consensus had March sales pegged at 1.2 percent or 1.3 percent. More promising: March retail growth was positive, at 0.6 percent, even excluding cars and trucks. IHS economist Nigel Gault telles MarketWatch, "This surge in spending reflects a decline in the saving rate rather than a surge in income, since real disposable income probably fell in the quarter." This last part will come as a surprise to the secretary of the Treasury.
Mortgage delinquencies have declined ever so slightly in the first quarter, a fact that merited A-1 top-right placement in USA Today's exotic "paper" edition. This figure comes from Equifax, which made precisely the opposite claim just 45 days ago. The new improved HAMP must be in a fast-acting gel form (oral insertion recommended).
Needs Improvement: Inflation. The consumer price index rose 0.1 percent in March, after a flat February. But this increase was due entirely to growing food and energy costs, leading TheStreet.com to say inflation is "in check," with Business Week opining that "tame inflation is accompanying the economic recovery." Central economic planners can't deliver the deep satisfaction the nation craves with a rate of inflation this flaccid. But things look better in the big picture: Every dollar you have is worth 2.3 cents less than it was worth a year ago. And if you're like your average countryman, you have fewer dollars than you had a year ago. So you're richer in love and experience; you're only poorer in reality.