TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Steve Chiotakis: Bad weather in February didn’t stop shoppers from taking advantage of deals and helping an anemic economy get some of its footing back. David Wyss is chief economist at Standard and Poor’s. He’s with us live from New York this morning. Good morning, David.
David Wyss: Good morning.
Chiotakis: We kept hearing about snowstorms causing unemployment issues. I guess people weren’t hampered from going to the stores though, were they?
Wyss: No, neither snow nor rain nor sleet will keep Americans from their appointed shopping, that’s for sure. They were out there in force for just about everything except cars.
Chiotakis: And what were some of the sectors that were… cars I know were down, sort of a drag on the rest of the retail sales, but who was up?
Wyss: Well, electronics, very strong — Super Bowl, getting ready for March Madness. Big increase in electronic stores. We also saw big increases in restaurants, which was a real surprise given the weather. I think people were desperate to get out of the house. Year-on-year basis, the other big one was non-store retailers, which means heavily Internet purchases.
Chiotakis: Online, yeah.
Wyss: Yeah, you can get to the computer even if you can’t get to the mall.
Chiotakis: How important, David, is this number in sort of placing where we are in this economy?
Wyss: This is critical. The consumer is 70 percent of teh U.S. economy, and we’re really counting on the consumer to get out there and lead us out of recession.
Chiotakis: Is this recession like any other? I mean because we talk about, well, we need the consumers to spend money to get us out of the recession, and other recessions have proved that. What about this one?
Wyss: I think this one is a little different. This one looks more like a lot of the financial panics we saw prior to World War II than it looks like the recent recessions. History suggests that these are a little harder to get out of. It’s a slower recovery than it is from a typical recession.
Chiotakis: In a few minutes, David, we’re going to get the latest data on how consumers are feeling at the moment. This is that University of Michigan sentiment number. Connect that to retail sales. I mean, can we make some accurate predictions with what we hear today?
Wyss: Well, take it with a grain of salt. But generally strong consumer confidence indicates people will spend money. We’re hoping for a good number that will indicate retail sales will continue strong in March.
Chiotakis: David Wyss joining us in New York. David, thanks.
Wyss: Thank you.
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