Will Happy Consumers Make Retail Look Good?

“Americans are in phase two of the economic recovery, however for many it just doesn’t feel that way,” noted Nielsen’s senior vice president of Global Consumer Insights, James Russo, in the firms most recent survey on global consumer sentiment.

While the numbers were strong — 42 percent of North American respondents said they planned to spend on discretionary items in the next 12 months — sentiment in Canada pushed the overall figure higher. Comparatively, Nielsen remained cautious regarding its outlook for consumers in the United States. The weekly retail sales data released by Redbook and the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs Tuesday showed some softness for the week of May 4.

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Contracting significantly from last week’s slight week-over-week gain of 0.4 percent, the ICSC-Goldman Store Sales Index dropped 1 percent. On a year-over-year basis, the index rose 2.4 percent, a decrease of two-tenths from last week’s 2.6 percent gain.

“There were lots of cross-currents over the past week with weather ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in different parts of the country, an uptick in gasoline prices, and improving high-end consumer confidence,” said ICSC Chief Economist Michael Niemira in a press release seen by Dow Jones Newswires.

The Redbook reading — in which figures for the first week of the month are compared with the average for the entire previous month — also showed a contraction in retail sales growth, declining from a reading of 2.8 percent last week to 2.3 percent for the most recently reported period. Redbook’s month-to-month comparison with April showed a deep 2.5 percent decline, which is especially concerning since last week’s figures declined by 2.5 percent as well.

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