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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Gain Light; Gasoline Prices Fell
by Tom Moeller September 14, 2006

In August, US retail sales rose a modest 0.2% following an unrevised July gain of 1.4%. Consensus expectations had been or a slight 0.1% decline.

Sales by motor vehicle & parts dealers rose 0.4% (3.7% y/y) after a 4.3% surge in July.Behind the modest m/m gain was a 6.5% decline in unit vehicle sales to 16.06M, the lowest sales rate this year.

Excluding autos, retail sales also rose just 0.2% after a downwardly revised 0.6% July increase. Consensus expectations had been for nonauto retail sales to rise 0.3% last month.

Sales at gasoline stations also fell a hard 1.0% (+11.0% y/y) as gasoline prices fell during August 1.0% m/m to an average $2.95 per gallon. Gasoline prices have since fallen further to $2.62 per gallon last week.

Less gasoline, nonauto retail sales rose 0.4% (7.0% y/y) after a downwardly revised 0.5% August increase.

Sales of discretionary items were moderate last month. Furniture, electronics & appliances slipped 0.1% (+5.9% y/y) after July gain of 0.3% that was revised down from 1.2% reported initially. General merchandise stores rose 0.4% (4.9% y/y), better than the little-revised 0.2% July increase but apparel store sales fell 0.3% (+6.6% y/y). Sales of nonstore retailers (internet & catalogue) rose 0.3% (12.5% y/y) after a little revised 2.1% July spike.

Building material sales increased 0.1% (8.2% y/y) after a 0.3% July gain that was revised down from 1.9% in the initial report.

Survey Says Families Are Digging Deeper into Debt from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is available here.

  August July Y/Y 2005 2004 2003
Retail Sales & Food Services 0.2% 1.4% 6.7% 7.2% 6.2% 4.2%
  Excluding Autos 0.2% 0.6% 7.5% 8.2% 7.2% 4.7%
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