Retail Sales Data Stalled as Government Shutdown Stretches Into 26th Day

Amid a global economic slowdown, trade war tensions and stock market volatility, U.S. businesses and private-sector analysts are unable to view crucial retail sales data — thanks to the ongoing partial government shutdown.

The Commerce Department, which was expected to release the numbers as scheduled on Wednesday, will remain closed as President Donald Trump spars with Democratic politicians as he continues to demand federal funding for his campaign-promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Entering its 26th day, it is the longest shutdown in government history — a status it achieved on Jan. 12.

The impasse comes at a vital time, as investors seek sales figures following the all-important holiday shopping season.

Retailers reaped the rewards of a robust economy between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24, with sales in the industry gaining 5.1 percent to record a six-year high, according to market intelligence firm Mastercard SpendingPulse. (In total, the payments company found that shoppers spent more than $850 billion, topping forecasts from the National Retail Federation, which estimated growth of between 4.3 and 4.8 percent.)

Rising wages, low unemployment and a drop in gas prices have all contributed to improved consumer confidence.

Analysts predicted higher spending in November and December — which included Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas Day — but urged vigilance for 2019 as investors come off of a brutal end-of-year period on the stock market.

Last month, the Dow tumbled 9.7 percent, marking the largest single-month decline since February 2009 and its worst December since the Great Depression in 1931.

Beyond the retail sector, other government-produced data, including the international trade report, have also been delayed.

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