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Economy in Brief

Chain Store Sales Down Again
by Tom Moeller January 13, 2004

Chain store sales fell 0.4% last week and that followed a 0.1% dip in the opening week of 2004, according to the ICSC-UBS survey.

So far in January sales are up 1.9% versus December.

During the last five years there has been a 61% correlation between the year-to-year percent change in the ICSC-UBS measure of chain store sales and the change in non-auto retail sales less gasoline.

The ICSC-UBS retail chain-store sales index is constructed using the same-store sales reported by 78 stores of seven retailers: Dayton Hudson, Federated, Kmart, May, J.C. Penney, Sears and Wal-Mart.

ICSC-UBS (SA, 1977=100) 01/10/04 01/03/04 Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Total Weekly Retail Chain Store Sales 429.2 430.9 4.9% 2.9% 3.6% 2.1%
Import Prices Tame
by Tom Moeller January 13, 2004

Imported commodities prices rose 0.2% last month, much less than Consensus expectations for a 0.5% increase. Prices in November were revised up due to a raised estimate of petroleum prices but the previously reported November gain in nonpetroleum import prices was revised down to 0.2% from 0.3%.

Non-petroleum import prices rose just 0.1% last month and reflected broad based weakness. Capital goods prices fell 0.2% and were down 1.3% during all of last year. Non-auto consumer goods prices were unchanged m/m and down 0.2% for the year while auto prices also were unchanged m/m for the second consecutive month.

During the last fifteen years there has been a (negative) 54% correlation between the trade-weighted exchange value of the dollar and the y/y change in nonpetroleum import prices

Petroleum prices rose 1.8% in December and have risen further in January. The price of Brent Crude Oil has neared $32.00/bbl this month versus $29.69 averaged in December.

Export prices rose a moderate 0.2% though foods, feeds & beverages prices continued strong, up 1.0% m/m and 8.4% for the year. Nonagricultural export prices rose 0.2% m/m and 1.0% in 2003.

Import/Export Prices (NSA) Dec Nov Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Import - All Commodities 0.2% 0.5% 1.9% 2.9% -2.5% -3.5%
  Petroleum 1.8% 2.1% 9.1% 20.6% 3.0% -17.2%
  Non-petroleum 0.1% 0.2% 1.0% 1.1% -2.4% -1.5%
Export - All Commodities 0.2% 0.5% 2.2% 1.6% -1.0% -0.8%
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