The retail sales figures and the inflationary trends and expectations the SA Reserve Bank supplied in the recent monetary policy committee (MPC) announcement are filled with economic clues as much as they present a micro-image of all our economic woes. These two numbers are significant in that they present, in the middle of our postfestive hangover, a snapshot of what household demand looks like, and by extension its effect on sales, employment, prices and output. Outside of the Black Friday stampedes and frenzy, the February value-added tax increase, high levels of household debt and steep fuel price rises in 2018 put a damper on any Christmas windfall the retailers may have been expecting. In the months preceding Black Friday in November, there was a moderate 1% rise in October and a 0.5% decline in sales in September. And, as the Bank showed us, the economy is not “overheating under the hood” of strong demand pressures. As the MPC’s statement read, “inflation is expected to remai...

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