Gallup Finds December Consumer Spending... Soared?

Tyler Durden's picture

Listening to talking heads and certainly to various retail associations, US consumer spending in December was lackluster driven by such traditional scapegoats as "lack of confidence ahead of the Fiscal Cliff", lack of clarity on taxation, fears about what the market may do, etc. And while retailers certainly did report a very mixed sales report for both November and December, it certainly was not due to lack of spending, at least not according to Gallup. Curiously, and rather inexplicably, the polling organization found that in December the average self-reported daily spending in stores, online, and in restaurants rose by a whopping $10 to $83. This was the highest monthly figure Gallup has reported since December 2008. It is also the first reading above the $80 mark since the 2008-2009 recession. But how is that possible? Wasn't the strawman that nobody would spend due to fiscal and tax uncertainty? Apparently not, and this unleashes merely the latest episode of baffle with BS, where data from one source contradicts directly what has been reported from other aggregators of spending data.

The Gallup charts:


The December data are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with more than 13,000 U.S. adults conducted throughout the month.

In each of the last four years, December was the single month with the highest spending average, which is not surprising given the tradition of giving and receiving holiday gifts. The December averages are typically about $10 higher than the average of the prior 11 months combined.


The four-year high in spending in December 2012 follows the trend toward increased spending Gallup has observed over the last four years. As the accompanying table shows, both the January through November and December averages have increased each year since 2009.

Not surprisingly, the biggest jump in spending was among members of the "upper classe", or those making over $90,000, where the average daily spend soared to a 4 year + high of $155. But even the lower income Americans spent more, at $67 per person per day.


Thus, the increase in spending in December was broad-based, with people of varying economic resources spending at least a bit more than they have in recent memory.

That this is confusing is an understatement. As Gallup observes:

Whether the trend toward greater spending continues in 2013 is unclear. Most Americans are seeing a decrease in take-home pay with the expiration of the Social Security payroll tax holiday, but President Barack Obama's and Congress' efforts to avoid the fiscal cliff kept federal income tax rates the same for most Americans.

Some other observations: could the reason for the undocumented surge be that all spending shifting to online? Yes, a big portion is, but the vast bulk of spending still takes places in malls and other retail outlet venues. The same venues that have bitterly complained and scapegoated the Cliff for their recent performance. Could it be that merely everyone is parroting the conventional wisdom, while trying simply to explain away collapsing margins? Is it possible that the retailer bottom line is declining even more despite the holiday shopping season in parallel with flat or even modestly rising revenues? If so, this is a major change from recent years where top line weakness could be masked by SG&A and COGS "efficiencies" and other accounting gimmicks? If so, watch out for the Q1 retail season as it truly be a bloodbath.

Another perfectly logical explanation is that the 13,000 respondents merely fibbed and overestimated their spending by a substantial amount. In a world in which official government data openly contradicts itself, it is certainly possible.

Finally, and perhaps most logical, is that US consumers spent aggressively in December due to the cliff, hoping to lock in prices which many expected would rise in an environment of rising corporate taxes across the board. if so, then December was merely another "cash for [    ]" grab, that pulled much of the 2013 purchasing ahead into 2012, and will result an even weaker start to the 2013 retail season.

Whereas December is usually the strongest month for consumer spending, January is typically one of the weakest, so it is unlikely spending will remain at the higher level reached in December. One key to understanding the trend in consumer spending will be how January 2013 spending compares with prior Januaries. If January 2013 looks strong compared with prior Januaries, it is a sign that the economic momentum is continuing. If it is weaker, it could be a sign that Americans' more generous spending ways may be ending.

Spot on, unless, of course, the spin now is that January comps will be not comparable because consumers will be "leery of spending ahead of the Debt Ceiling fiasco Ver 2.0" (aka the Debtbacle). And then continuing future spending weakness will be blamed on rainy springs, warm summers, cold winters, a tornado in Oklahoma, a butterfly flapping its wings in China and so on, where reality is only as predicted by the Fed's various computer models, and never what reality actually is.

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catacl1sm's picture

What did you expect, the truth?

Glass Seagull's picture



Gallup is closer to the "truth" than most (note their U% polls).  Probably another credit-fuelled bender.

walküre's picture

"truth" = Pravda

same shit different century

tbone654's picture

Russians sit and watch in amazement, that we are doing exactly what happened to them in the last century...  Letting communists take us over (for our own good of course) and continue the process of extracting all of our liberties, as they themeselves enjoy the conservative religeous rebirth of their own country and economy under Putin...

St. George on a flag with a cross... would never be allowed to happen here...

I read pravda now for the real truth in the world...  more here should do the same...

walküre's picture

Why did the French actor Depardieu take Russian citizenship? Who runs the banking in Russia?

tbone654's picture


Maybe he simply wants to enjoy most of his hard earned money himself and pay 15 percent taxes to the Russian Federation? If he does, who could prevent him from doing so? Nobody can, after the Knight of Merit has received his merited Russian passport from the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

Fukushima Sam's picture

Pretty sure Gallup's "increased spending" is actually "inflation".

Ying-Yang's picture

I don't know about you all... but I like to fuck up polls with bad answers every chance I get.

OutLookingIn's picture


The simple solution is usually "the" solution!

Higher taxes came in the new year.

So everybody take their bonuses, payouts and financial perks in December 2012 to avoid the taxman.


Future numbers will show this to be the case. One time thing.

Freddie's picture

Who runs the banking in Russia?

Who are the 20 or so (mega billionaire) oligarchs who stole most of Russia's natural resources?  Friends of Soros and the Rothschilds maybe?

Freddie's picture

All the way down to the final destruction of the empire in Afghanistan. A place that has destroyed how many other empires? 

macholatte's picture



Pravda you say:


What better way to staunch protests at worsening economic and life conditions than to make it feel like an honourable job/duty of the people to save "Gia". At the same time, they used this "science" as new pagan religion to further push out the Christianity they hate and despise and most of all, fear? Gia worship, the earth "mother", has been pushed in popular culture oozing out of the West for a better part of the past 1.5 decades. This is a religion replete with an army of priests, called Government Grant Scientists.

Global warming, the tool of the West

tbone654's picture

exactly... they out the hypocracy of Global Warming profiteering scams unlike the US mainstream media...

Lookup anything by this author... 

Obama's Soviet Mistake
19.11.2012 15:23

By Xavier Lerma

Lets_Eat_Ben's picture

It's amazing what the threat of a pending apocolpyse can do for gift sales.

"Ahh hell...I don't believe any of that Mayan calendar horseshit, but...just in case I'll buy everyone something reallll nice this year."

I was channeling cousin Eddie there

GeezerGeek's picture

It's amazing what the threat of a pending gun control apocalypse can do for sales of firearms and ammunition.

Bad Attitude's picture

Gun and ammo sales would have been greater, but for the national inventory of guns and ammo being completely depleted. If nothing else, Dear Leader has stimulated demand for guns and ammo like nobody else could have done, and this demand won't slow any time soon.

Panafrican Funktron Robot's picture

You know, if I was contemplating an invasion of the United States on perceived weakness, it would probably make me pause to hear recent stories of record gun sales, or the fact that there are more guns in citizen hands then there are citizens.  

FL_Conservative's picture

That's what happens when a series of lies no longer line up.

Stoploss's picture

Now we discover AT&T is the biggest Obama supporter.

I currently give AT&T 400.00 per month for all of my services.


AT&T now has a problem, i no longer wish to purchase services from the largest backer of Neo Facism..

Nor should you either.

Freddie's picture

Consider T Mobile because they are Germans.   Maybe Sprint is less Obama-ish/muslim-ish.

tbone654's picture

pfff... $40.00...  After phone, cable modem, cable TV, 3 smartphones and a Broadband hub, I give them bastages over $500 a month to find this out...  So my 2 year contract with myself is to eliminate ALL the AT&T (who I used to work for BTW) services period...

Go phones and Panera bread for me from soon on...

Freddie's picture

These Gallup c*cks called me to ask my rating of my non-NY money center bank.  I pretty much told them to F off.  

Why am I getting a banner ads here for breast augmentation?  Do they have any openings for quality control inspectors?  If so - I am your man.  When the older ones come in to get checked - I will take my lunch break. 

CPL's picture

Worthless poll after poll.  They used to serve an important role to determine where we needed to focus attention in an economy.


Now it's PR for Algos.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

I have come to see polls as deliberately conceived and promoted mainstream predictive programming along the same lines as TV, movies, the so-called "news" etc.

The understanding of what past reality is (aka history) begins with the perception of what present day reality is and vice versa. It is a closed loop positive feedback cycle. Thus future reality can be formed and distorted through perception management.

knukles's picture

It's all one unified great directed history, propaganda and perceptions management process.
Never stop believing that to be the truth.

CPL's picture

Why aren't you writing this down!!!  LOL  You are one of the reasons I started coming here to ramble with the bunch of you.



To the new folks on ZH.  Cognitive Dissonance is probably one of the most important philiosophers of our times and wrote AMAZING stuff on the world of the mind, it's influence on everything and how to leverage it to keep the skin on your ass.  Sort of like James Burke but he's doesn't have people throwing bricks of money and hot grad students at him for the effort.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Mrs. that you?  :)

You are kind, too kind in fact. Thank you.

Mrs. Cog has been hammering me lately to start posting again on ZH. Lots of writing projects started, but none of them finished. I think she's gonna divorce me if I don't finish something, anything.......including the honey do list. :)

jonan's picture

i agree, he writes some good shit!

SKY85hawk's picture

and SWAGs for the naive. 


(Scientific Wild Ass Guess)

Spastica Rex's picture

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." - P. K. Dick

My daily life is exactly what it is.


MrTouchdown's picture

Weren't rich people dumping money in order to not get hosed by the fiscal cliff deal? T'would explain figure 3.

Panafrican Funktron Robot's picture

"Weren't rich people dumping money"


"HNW Clients" that were "advised" did.  Actual rich people simply broker shit, they don't give a fuck what happens either way.  

TheMayor's picture

Some 2013 spending was pulled into December for those lucky enough to get special dividend or early bonus.

This is why gadget and auto sales were so robust.

Expect downside "surprise!" when this is exhausted.

Super Broccoli's picture

people getting poorer and still spending more ? jeez i wonder if that has something to do with inflation ?

Rainman's picture

Guns and ammo sales through the roof !

Commander Cody's picture

+ other prepper paraphenalia, including wine and liquor, hic.

CPL's picture

I dont get the idea of stockpiling booze when you can just buy a carbouy and equipment to make sure you never run out of supply.

Anything can be made into booze with the proper treatment.  Ever been to germany?  They make booze out of everything.  Prunes, peppers, apricots, apples, pears, oranges.  Part of german culture, if it's part of the landscape, make it 19% by volume and invent a delicous dessert to go with it.



q99x2's picture

How does Gallup make their money?

knukles's picture

Directed history, perceptions management and propaganda under the guise of objectivity.

Freddie's picture


Lying and propaganda is their stock and trade like TV and Hollywood. 

Panafrican Funktron Robot's picture

The headline data is really high level, if you want the deep dive, you gotta pay.  There's a lot of money in polling data.

cbxer55's picture

Gallup did not poll me. I hardly speny anything this year in December. Bought no Christmas presents for anyone, and received none from anyone, as we had agreed to do.  There is no way I spent, or do so now, $83.00 a day. I'd be broke if I spent that kind of coin daily. Shoot, sometimes I go a whole week on $10.00. Yeah I am a cheap skate.  ;-)

tbone654's picture

$83 x 365 is only $30,295 ...  If you had a family of 5, that's probably not a lot of money to spend per day for living...  I think what they were trying to say is that the average shopper was spending that amount per day when they were christmas shopping...  But without the average number of days the average person shops, it becomes a meaningless number that can be filed under the heading "contingent valuation"...

but i like your point... +1

Snoopy the Economist's picture

Gallop didn't poll my house either. We live quite comfortably but I have finally got my wife to understand that 'Christmas isn't found in a box or a bag' (as the Grinch would say) and our spending has steadily decreased year-over-year. I too am a cheap-skate. I only buy things when I need them.

Funny though, my son (recent college grad with good job) bought me a large screen TV to replace my 27" tube TV (which I purchased from craigslist) - so I finally have a nice TV - I kept saying 'the prices are going to go lower this year too' so I never bought one.

Freddie's picture

Good for you.  I am not hurting but I have cut back on everything and I am pretty cheap.  I plan on cutting more in 2013.

tbone654's picture

yes, it's pretty sad when your best hope for your own future, is that you are able to live in your car some day...

At the end of February I will retire with almost exactly + $0 ...  I'll be cutting back too...

MisterMousePotato's picture

I clearly remember the afternoon over thirty years ago when Barefoot Junior told me about the summer he spent ten cents. Although his was not a lifestyle I would care to emulate, nevertheless, there was some wisdom in what he said. That was right after I drove him and Cornbread Ralph into town to go grocery shopping. Cornbread brought a spoon with him.

When we were paying, Cornbread Ralph nudged me and said, "See? Junior spends ten dollars a month on groceries."

Barefoot Junior whipped around, angry, and said, "I ain't never spent ten dollars a month on groceries."

That's when he told me about the summer he spent ten cents.