Retail sales hold steady, Trump Organization case heads to trial, mortgage applications drop

U.S. retail sales were flat from month-ago levels in July, hitting $682.8 billion as consumers remained cautious about spending amid persistent inflation, the department reported on Wednesday. Trade.

The figures, which include spending on food services outside the home, showed a 10.1% increase from the previous year. While consumers have seen relief in recent weeks in the form of lower gasoline prices, last month’s spending at gas stations was still up 39.9% from July 2021.

Gas station spending increased by 40.6% for the first seven months of 2022. After that, the largest year-over-year spending increases for the January-July period were seen in clothing and accessories stores, up 8.7%, with spending in food and beverage stores up 7.8% and building materials and supplies stores up 6.3% . Spending fell 4.9% at electronics and appliance stores.

Most major U.S. big-box retailers are now reporting declining earnings or reducing future earnings projections in the face of rising supply, labor and other costs associated with recalibrating merchandise and lower prices for slow-selling items. Wall Street initially reacted to falling earnings this week by sending Target’s stock price plummeting, although walmart and Home Depot showed signs of a stock rebound after posting encouraging, if not stellar, earnings reports.

The real estate impacts are not yet visible. Retail analyst Patrick McKeever, founder of news and research site The Daily on Retail, reported last week that announcements of planned chain store openings in the first half of 2022 totaled 5,080, which which is similar to the same period of 2021. The closing announcements, at 895, were down 63% from the prior year period.

“As has been the case for some time now, opening announcements have been concentrated in the discount/dollar and off-price sectors, which may be less vulnerable to online competition and less transferable to e-commerce than ‘other areas of retail,’ McKeever said in an August 11 blog post on the National Retail Federation’s Trade Group website.

The New York Supreme Court has set a trial date for late October after rejecting a request by the Trump Organization to dismiss a criminal charge alleging tax evasion by former President Donald Trump’s real estate company and its former chief financial officer.

Judge Juan Merchan set jury selection for Oct. 24 after state prosecutors alleged that the New York-based Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, conspired to avoid paying taxes. taxes by diverting part of the remuneration of certain executives towards benefits such as cars, apartments and Cash payment. The defendants denied the charges.

The former president has not been charged in the case, although the Trump Organization has sought to have the indictment dismissed on the grounds that he was politically motivated and did not belong to a court of law. state because it involved federal tax allegations. The judge dismissed a tax evasion charge after prosecutors agreed the alleged conduct happened too long ago to be included in the current case.

The tax evasion case was derived from a larger ongoing investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office regarding the Trump Organization’s alleged misrepresentation of its assets to tax authorities, banks and insurers. Trump and his company have also denied any wrongdoing.

The former president last week invoked his Fifth Amendment right to decline to answer questions in a separate investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office into the Trump Organization’s business practices. Earlier this month, the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago compound in Florida as part of a federal investigation into classified documents allegedly transferred from the White House to the property. residential.

Mortgage applications fell 2.3% from the previous week for the period ending August 12 and hit their lowest level in two decades, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported on Wednesday.

The group said the weekly request volume gauge, which does not specify request quantities or dollar volumes, showed refinance requests were up 5% from the previous week but down 82% from the previous week. compared to the comparable week of 2021. Purchase requests decreased by 2% compared to the previous week. and were down 18% from the prior year period as overall app activity hit its lowest level since 2000.

“Homebuying inquiries continued to be dampened by rapidly drying up demand as high mortgage rates, challenging affordability and a bleaker economic outlook kept buyers away,” said Joel Kan, Associate Vice President of Group Economic and Industry Forecasting. said in a statement.

Applications fell even as interest rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.45%, down from 5.47% the previous week, the group reported. The average fixed rate for 15-year loans was 4.87%, compared to 4.74% the previous week. Most current lending rates remain well above levels of a year ago.

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