Economic growth measure: counting cars, from space

According to measurements of parked cars in satellite photos, this season should see renewed retail sales growth.

There is plenty of speculation about how holiday retail sales will fare this year, as a gauge of the health of the economy. Statistics from government agencies, the National Retail Federation, credit card companies, and others will be watched like hawks.

Perhaps the way to measure economic activity is to literally watch it like a hawk -- or at least from a hawk-eye view. Or even higher, from space satellites. Reuters reports that satellite images from Remote Sensing Metrics "show more cars parked outside shopping malls across the country in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, and increasingly crowded parking lots usually mean higher sales."   The following metrics are provided:

"This year 35 percent of parking spaces have been filled since mid-September on average, compared with 31 to 32 percent the previous two years, according to the data analyzed by Thomson Reuters."

The National Retail Federation projects that holiday sales this year would top last year by 2.3%, In 2008, sales declined by 3.9%. We'll see if all those cars seen in the parking lots translate into open wallets.

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