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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Eased After Firmed December
by Tom Moeller February 14, 2007

In January, US retail sales slipped marginally after a December gain that was revised up to 1.2% from 0.9% reported initially. The figure for last month fell short of Consensus expectations for a modest 0.3% rise.

Excluding autos, retail sales added 0.3% to an upwardly revised 1.3% December gain, revised from 1.0%.

Sales by motor vehicle & parts dealers reversed all of the December increase with a 1.3% (-1.7% y/y) decline, helped by a 0.1% slip in new unit vehicle sales.

Gasoline service station sales fell 0.7% after the 3.6% jump during December reflecting the 3.2% drop in gasoline prices to an average $2.24 per gallon.

Nonauto retail sales less gasoline rose 0.5% (4.3% y/y) last month after an upwardly revised 1.0% spurt during December.

Sales of discretionary items were generally firm last month. Sales at general merchandise stores rose 1.3% (5.6% y/y) after an upwardly revised 1.2% December increase.Apparel store sales also were firm with a 1.0% (4.6% y/y) after a December spurt that was about doubled to 1.1%. Furniture, home furnishings & appliance stores, however, slipped after a December increase that was halved to 0.8%. The huge December gain in sales at electronics & appliance stores was lowered to 1.8% from 3.0%, then sales fell 1.2% last month.

Building material sales rose 0.8% (-3.1% y/y) after a very much upwardly revised 0.7% December increase. Sales of nonstore retailers (internet & catalogue) rose a moderate 0.5% (8.4% y/y) but restaurant and bar sales fell 0.7% (5.3% y/y) after a firm December gain that was upwardly revised a 3.1%.

Chairman Ben S. Bernanke's Senate Testimony, The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress, can be found here.

  January December Y/Y 2006 2005 2004
Retail Sales & Food Services -0.0% 1.2% 2.3% 6.3% 7.2% 6.2%
  Excluding Autos 0.3% 1.3% 3.4% 7.5% 8.3% 7.2%
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