This question comes to mind when looking at some recent earnings reports. Wal-Mart's been faring well, but it points to increased grocery and other low-cost items, suggesting that they may be taking sales away from higher priced grocery rivals. That might be a recession sign.
But this week's Amazon figures raise questions about such analysis. On April 23, Amazon reported a quarterly profit boost of 29 percent (to $143 million) based on quarterly sales growth of—wait for it—37 percent.
You can't argue that Amazon's book sales (which climbed some 28 percent to $2.54 billion) or its electronics items (which soared 56 percent to $1.48 billion) are either essentials or that they're merely taking sales away from others.
Is it possible that someone forgot to tell Amazon about the recession? Or is this "recession" a wonderful example of mind-over-matter?
The housing market slump is real. No question about that. But even Home Depot, which bills itself as the world's largest home improvement retailer, saw a revenue boost in its most recent quarter, albeit an anemic 1.5 percent hike.
The second largest home improvement player, Lowe's, was slightly worse, seeing a quarterly revenue decline of about one-third of a percent.
But will that soon pick up, as consumers unable to buy a new home decide instead to start fixing the old one?
With the kind of numbers that Amazon is racking up, this recession doesn't appear to be nearly as widespread as many have suggested.