Don't write off the U.S. consumer, right? Wrong. On a year-over-year basis there has been a sharp deceleration in nominal retail sales growth. On a year-over-year basis, there has been a sharp contraction in price-adjusted retail sales. The chart below using quarterly average data illustrates this. Growth in nominal retail sales peaked back in the first quarter of 2006 at 7.6% in this cycle. In the second quarter of this year, nominal retail sales growth had slowed to just 2.6%. Adjusted by the goods or commodities component of the CPI, retail sales on a year-over-year basis have been declining for three quarters running, contracting by 2.6% in the second quarter of this year. Notice that in the recession of 2001, although price-adjusted retail sales experienced slower year-over-year growth, they never outright contracted. In this recession - yes, despite all the happy talk, we are in a recession - real retail sales are contracting.