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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales' Gain Light
by Tom Moeller April 13, 2005

US retail sales rose 0.3% in March but the gain fell quite short of Consensus expectations for a 0.8% rise. The 0.5% increase in February was unrevised though figures back to 2003 were revised slightly lower.

March sales excluding motor vehicles also disappointed Consensus expectations for a 0.6% rise.The 0.1% up tick followed a downwardly revised 0.6% increase in February.

Spending on discretionary items eased after increasing strongly through February. Sales at furniture & home furnishings stores slipped 0.5% (+4.1% y/y) after a 1.5% February jump. General merchandise stores reversed an unrevised 0.7% (+4.4% y/y) gain in February and apparel store sales dropped 1.9% (+1.6% y/y) after unrevised gains of 1.1% and 1.9% during the prior two months.

March nonauto retail sales less gasoline fell 0.1% (+5.4% y/y) following a 0.5% February increase. Gasoline service station sales jumped 2.1% (17.8% y/y) as gasoline prices rose 8.9% to an average $2.08 per gallon. In the second week of April gasoline prices rose further to an average $2.28.

Sales of nonstore retailers (internet and catalogue) jumped 1.2% m/m (+13.4% y/y).

Building material store sales surged 1.5% (+5.5% y/y) but the y/y gain eased considerably from the earlier pace. The comparison was tough given the 9.7% m/m spike in March 2004.

Economic Policy and the Sustainability of U.S. Productivity Growth from New York Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy F. Geithner are available here.

The minutes to the latest meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee can be found here.

  Mar Feb Y/Y 2004 2003 2002
Retail Sales & Food Services 0.3% 0.5% 5.8% 7.3% 4.3% 2.5%
  Excluding Autos 0.1% 0.6% 6.6% 8.3% 4.7% 3.3%
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