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Economy in Brief

Strong Ending to Holiday Season Raised Chain Store Sales
by Tom Moeller December 28, 2004

Chain store sales surged 2.7% during Christmas week on top of two weeks of strong gain, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)-UBS survey. During the last three weeks chain store sales jumped 5.7%. That gain edged out the previous three week high for the series since its inception in 1989.

Despite these gains, average of sales so far in December is 0.1% below the prior month due to two huge w/w sales declines the end of November.

Consumers' spending budgets benefited from another decline in gasoline prices which, for regular unleaded, fell 2.4 cents w/w to $1.791 per gallon (+21.2% y/y). For December, gasoline prices are 7.0% below November.

The latest Short Term Energy Outlook from the US Department of Energy is available here.

The leading indicator of chain store sales from ICSC edged up slightly in the latest period (+0.9% y/y).

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) 12/25/04 12/18/04 Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Total Weekly Chain Store Sales 449.9 437.9 4.3% 2.9% 3.6% 2.1%
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