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Economy in Brief

Chain Store Sales Up, Gasoline Prices Down
by Tom Moeller February 7, 2006

Chain store sales surged 2.0% during the opening week of February and recovered all of the prior week's sharp 1.1% decline, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)-UBS survey.

As a result of the jump, sales began the month 0.9% above the January average which rose 1.0% from December.

The rise in sales may have been aided by a two cent decline in gasoline prices at the pump to $2.34 per gallon of regular unleaded. The decline reversed most of the prior week's rise. Despite the decline, retail gasoline prices began February three cents higher than the January average with rose thirteen cents versus December.

In spot market trading, gasoline prices recently have been quite soft. The decline from $1.74 last Monday extended to yesterday when prices hit $1.56, the lowest level since late December. Weak demand for gasoline may have caused the price weakness as gasoline demand fell 10% from December. Seasonal declines in demand of this order have been common during January in the past. The theory is complicated, however, by the abnormally warm temperatures last month.

The leading indicator of chain store sales reversed all of the prior week's rise and fell 0.6%.

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.

ICSC-UBS (SA, 1977=100) 02/04/06 01/28/06 Y/Y 2005 2004 2003
Total Weekly Chain Store Sales 462.9 454.0 3.8% 3.6% 4.7% 2.9%
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