Retail sales fell modestly in April, but they were higher than in December. The big story here is not the month to month changes, but the fact that the free-fall in sales which began last August has almost certainly ended. This is what a bottoming process should look like.
The things to watch for signs of a recovery are the things that trade in real-time. That's where the action is, and there are no lags in the data to worry about, no faulty seasonal adjustment factors, etc. On that score, industrial spot commodity prices are up 15% from their December lows, industrial metals prices are up 30% from year end, petroleum products are up almost 40% from year end, and shipping rates are up 180% from year end. According to the AAA, nationwide average prices for regular and premium unleaded gasoline at the pump are up 10% so far this month. And of course equity prices are up by one-third from their lows in early March. To me, the bulk of the evidence weighs in favor of an economy that is slowly recovering.