Remember when Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executives were bemoaning the fact that February sales represented the worst start to a month since God knows when, and all the Negative Nellies said, see, I told you so! I told you the economy was going to implode because the temporary payroll tax cut was reversed at the start of the year. I told you businesses would stop hiring because income tax rates went up for top earners. I told you (actually President Barack Obama did) the $42 billion of automatic spending cuts in fiscal 2013 were going to permeate every aspect of our lives and leave death and destruction in their wake?
Guess what? Wrong script. Companies added 236,000 people to the payroll in February, beating expectations. Retail sales rose 1.1 percent, a strong showing in the face of delayed income tax refunds this year. And so far, the cancellation of White House tours seems to be the biggest inconvenience from sequestration -- something the president could have avoided by sacrificing two hours of operating Air Force One.
I don't know if the upbeat numbers represent a trend or another head fake. Let's just say I wouldn't be surprised to see some sustained improvement in the U.S. economy -- in spite of all the hurdles being thrown at it. The new normal is getting old. It's time to move on.
Why, it's almost as if the economy wants to say, see, I told you I wasn't ready to be put out to pasture just yet.