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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Gain Light
by Tom Moeller May 11, 2006

The 0.5% rise in US retail sales during April was a bit short of Consensus expectations for a 0.7% gain. It followed an unrevised 0.6% rise the prior month. Despite the disappointment, retail sales during the first four months of this year rose at a 10.2% annual rate.

Also disappointing was the 0.7% increase in nonauto sales which followed an unrevised 0.4% March rise. Consensus expectations had been for a 0.9% increase. However, that disappointment must be labeled slight given that year to date nonauto sales surged 11.8% (AR) versus an 8.2% rise during all of last year.

Sales at gasoline stations jumped 4.6% (17.4% y/y) as retail gasoline prices rose 13.1% m/m to an April average of $2.74 per gallon.

During April, nonauto retail sales less gasoline rose just 0.2% (7.4% y/y) following an upwardly revised 0.6% March increase. Year to date nonauto retail sales less gasoline rose at a 10.0% annual rate versus a 6.7% increase during 2005.

Sales by motor vehicle & parts dealers fell 0.4% (-0.3% y/y) and reflected a 0.9% m/m increase unit auto sales to 16.74M.

Sales of discretionary items rose moderately led by a 0.8% increase in general merchandise store sales (5.7% y/y). Apparel store sales rose 0.3% (4.5% y/y) but the prior month's modest decline was revised to a 0.4% gain. Sales of furniture, electronics & appliances rose 0.2% (6.9% y/y) and matched an upwardly revised March up tick.

Building material sales retraced all of an upwardly revised 1.6% (+13.0% y/y) March increase while sales of nonstore retailers (internet & catalogue) rose 0.5% (13.3% y/y) following jumps of 2.1% and 3.3% during the prior two months.

  April Mar Y/Y 2005 2004 2003
Retail Sales & Food Services 0.5% 0.6% 6.6% 7.2% 6.2% 4.2%
  Excluding Autos 0.7% 0.5% 8.6% 8.2% 7.2% 4.7%
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