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Economy in Brief

Chain Store Sales Helped by Lower Gasoline Prices
by Tom Moeller December 21, 2004

Chain store sales rose another 1.6% last week and added to the 1.2% rise during the first full week of December, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)-UBS.

The average of sales so far in December is 1.2% below November although strength during the last two weeks nearly recouped all of the declines of the prior two periods.

Consumers' spending budgets benefited from another decline in gasoline prices. Last week, the average pump price for regular unleaded fell 3.2 cents to $1.815 per gallon (+22.2% y/y). The U.S. Energy Information Administration indicated that gas prices are down 10.8% from the peak in late October.

The leading indicator of chain store sales from ICSC surged 1.2% in the latest period, the first gain in six weeks.

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

During the last ten years there has been a 60% correlation between y/y change in chain store sales and the change in non-auto retail sales less gasoline, as published by the US Census Department.

ICSC-UBS (SA, 1977=100) 12/18/04 12/11/04 Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Total Weekly Chain Store Sales 437.9 430.9 3.5% 2.9% 3.6% 2.1%
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