Despite the inclement weather felt across many parts of the country, U.S. retail sales excluding automotive and gasoline increased 4.6 percent year-over-year in February, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, with online sales growing 54.7 percent compared to 2020. Mastercard SpendingPulse measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment.
February is highlighted by Valentine’s Day, and thus is known for being the month of love. Spending on jewelry rose by 5.9 percent overall during the month, when compared to February 2020, and by 63.1 percent online year on year.
“While in-store sales decelerated slightly as a result of winter storms, consumers are continuing to show up online,” said Steve Sadove, Mastercard senior advisor and former CEO of Saks, Inc. “From jewelry to apparel, e-commerce has opened doors for consumers to shop online while warmer days, widespread vaccinations and the loosening of restrictions appear on the horizon.”
And it was not only in the United States. In China, total revenue by key companies in the retail sector rose 28.7 percent year-on-year during this year’s Spring Festival holidays from Feb 11 to 17, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce. The figure even exceeded the Spring Festival holiday spending in 2019 by 4.9 percent, which was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
DIAMOND TRADE RISES SHARPLY IN ISRAEL IN FEBRUARY
Trading activity in the Israeli diamond center rose sharply in February, with polished exports climbing 24 percent year on year to $251.6 million, according to the country’s Ministry of Economy and Labor. To some degree that was due to a rise in diamond prices, but not only. The volume of the polished diamond export rose sharply as well, up 20 percent.
Rough diamond exports from Israel increased by 21 percent to \$124 million, although the volume was down 9 percent.
One reason for the improved Israel’s diamond exports was the opening of an official trade channel with the United Arab Emirates, as a result of the Abraham Accords that were signed last August.
According to the Ministry of Economy and Labor, some 16 percent of Israel’s exports were to Dubai, which is the emirate in which the UAE’s diamond trade is centered.
“The industry has cause for optimism after a difficult year,” said Ophir Gore, Israel’s diamond controller, as quoted by Rapaport. “The data that the global diamond sector has seen in the past two months — especially in the American diamond and jewelry market — indicate demand has recovered. The first half of this year is expected to be particularly positive for the industry.”
Mastercard SpendingPulse data showed that pending on jewelry in the United States rose by 5.9 percent overall during February 2021, when compared to the same month last year, and by 63.1 percent online year on year.
Polished exports from the Israeli diamond center in Ramat Gan climbed 24 percent year on year to $251.6 million in February 2021.
U.S. SET TO DRIVE TRADE OVER COMING MONTHS
By all indications the U.S. market should continue to drive trade over the coming few months. There, the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index improved again in February, after increasing in January. It now stands at 91.3, up from 88.9 in January.
“After three months of consecutive declines in the Present Situation Index, consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved in February,” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “This course reversal suggests economic growth has not slowed further. While the Expectations Index fell marginally in February, consumers remain cautiously optimistic, on the whole, about the outlook for the coming months.”
The percentage of American consumers claiming business conditions are “good” increased from 15.8 percent to 16.5 percent, while the proportion claiming business conditions are “bad” fell from 42.4 percent to 39.9 percent.
Consumers’ assessment of the labor market also improved. The percentage of consumers saying jobs are “plentiful” increased from 20.0 percent to 21.9 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” declined from 22.5 percent to 21.2 percent.
Regarding short-term income prospects, 15.2 percent of consumers expect their incomes to increase in the next six months, down slightly from 15.8 percent in January. Conversely, 13.2 percent expect their incomes to decrease, down from 15.5 percent in January.