Feb 13 - U.S. retail sales unexpectedly dropped in January as cold temperatures and several snow storms put a chill on an already cool economic recovery. Conway G. Gittens reports.
T'is the season to be shoveling, not shopping. Another winter storm is hitting the U.S., packing more snow on consumers that have had enough! SOUNDBITE: VERONICA (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It's ridiculous. But what are you going to do. It's Mother Nature. You got to deal with it." SOUNDBITE: SUSAN (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It's crazy. I haven't seen a winter like this in a really long time or maybe never." According to business weather consultants Planalytics so far, this winter has seen the biggest national snow fall in three years. And that is hurting retail sales already crimped by a sluggish economic recovery. Retail sales surprisingly dropped 0.4 percent at the start of the year and December's figure was downwardly revised to show a decline instead of a modest gain, according to data from the Commerce Department. This winter is throwing snowballs at the Federal Reserve's attempt to warm up this economy, says Reuters columnist James Saft. SOUNDBITE: JAMES SAFT, REUTERS COLUMNIST (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Janet Yellen is new to the chair and must be putting a premium on appearing serene and in control. The risk is that the bad weather is exacerbating underlying weakness, which was already apparent in the economy." Economists are now waiting to see if consumer spending rebounds with rising temperatures or remains weak, blowing away hopes of a spring revival.