Local angle first: today, New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reported that sales tax collections grew at a slower rate on average in 2011 than in 2010, saying that continued caution with respect to the economy is the flavor of the day. In Westchester County, sales tax collections increased just 2% in 2011, marking a sharp contrast compared to 2010, when local sales tax collections increased 6.4%.
Big picture: according to Beata Caranci, Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist for TD Bank, consumer credit, which largely drives consumer spending (and which in turn largely drives economic output) dropped off in the second half of January, signifying the economy may not be as strong as some are perceiving it to be.
Caranci: “…The largest provider of consumer credit is commercial banks. They account for just over half of all private sector credit disbursement. Unfortunately, the weekly tracking of this credit is showing a reversal of fortunes since the economy-wide monthly data was released two weeks ago. Not only did commercial bank lending activity come to an abrupt halt in January, but it practically fell off a cliff…
“Simply put, for those expecting a strong rebound in consumer spending in the first half of the year based on December’s rebound in credit demand and the recent new job hiring activity, think again.”