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Today’s Economic Forecast? Depends on the Weather


How’s the weather by you? Because here by me in the Northeast, it’s been beautiful – I mean barbecue-perfect beautiful! In fact, it’s been that way a lot recently; in fact more than just recently. Some rain here and there, but for much of the last couple of months, mother nature has been more than kind.

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Now, I know what you’re thinking – why the heck is Neil going on and on about the weather? Well, my friends, because it’s so different than the way things started out this year. Let’s just say it was a rough winter, and a really rough quarter. My kids had so many snow days that I half expected them to be continuing classes straight through Labor Day (blessedly, they just formally finished).

Not surprising then that since so many Americans were stuck inside their homes, not a whole lot ventured out. Retailers felt it. Businesses saw it. And the economic numbers proved it. The latest first quarter data showed output in the U.S. declined at an annual rate of 2.9%. Again, not surprisingly, all that ice and snow proved a big reason. The bad weather put a serious kink in construction and manufacturing activity in general. Folks weren’t buying much of anything – car sales down, clothing sales down, lots of sales down.

So allow me to be the first to say the administration has very good reason to “blame the weather.” Let’s just hope that the optimism they have for this quarter similarly credits the weather. In other words, if they’re going to blame a dark few months for the economy on no sun, they damn well better credit a brighter few months for the economy on plenty of sun. Because the weather’s been great, so no excuse for Americans not to shop, and factories not to be firing up.

Let’s see how that goes. Let’s see whether mother nature gets the credit on the upside as much as she gets the blame on the downside. I have my doubts, however. If memory serves me right, I never recall a retailing chief executive tipping his hat to the sun after a good quarter. But I sure remember a bunch of them blaming the lack of sun for a bad quarter.

It’s human nature to point fingers, I guess, and there are certainly lots of factors at play, I know. But wouldn’t it be grand if the same folks who offer a hundred different ways to say the dog ate their homework, just eat all their prior words and say, this time – the dog DID eat my homework?!

What do you think?

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