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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Firm
by Tom Moeller March 15, 2005

US retail sales rose 0.5% last month and about matched Consensus expectations. The gain was accompanied, however, by an upward revision to January sales which are now estimated to have risen 0.3% versus the initial report of a 0.3% decline.

Sales excluding motor vehicles rose 0.4% in February following a revised 1.0% January increase which was nearly double the initial report. Consensus expectations had been for a 0.8% rise in February nonauto sales.

The tone of spending on discretionary items appears firmer than it did last month due to strong February increases and upward revisions to January results. Sales at furniture & home furnishings stores jumped 1.1% (5.9% y/y) after a 1.4% January spurt. Apparel store sales added 1.1% (5.0% y/y) to a 1.7% January leap and February sales at general merchandise stores rose 0.7% (6.6% y/y).

Sales of nonstore retailers (internet and catalogue) slipped marginally m/m (+12.5% y/y) but January now is estimated at up 1.0%.

Gasoline service station sales rose 0.9% (16.4% y/y) on the strength of a 4.3% increase in gasoline prices to an average $1.91 per gallon. In the latest week gasoline prices averaged a near record $2.06. Nonauto retail sales less gasoline rose 0.4% (7.5% y/y) in February after a 1.0% January increase

Building material store sales fell 1.3% (+13.1% y/y).

  Feb Jan Y/Y 2004 2003 2002
Retail Sales & Food Services 0.5% 0.3% 7.7% 7.6% 5.3% 2.5%
  Excluding Autos 0.4% 1.0% 8.4% 8.5% 5.2% 3.2%
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