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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Beat Expectations, Sales of Discretionary Items Firm
by Tom Moeller December 13, 2007

November U.S. retail sales doubled expectations for a 0.6% increase and rose 1.2%. That followed an unrevised 0.2% gain during October. The gains occurred despite the recent sharp drop in consumer sentiment.

Excluding autos sales also beat expectations for a 0.7% gain and rose 1.8% after a 0.4% increase during the prior month.

The strength was not all attributable to higher gasoline prices. Less gasoline, nonauto sales rose 1.1% following the meager 0.1% October uptick

Sales of discretionary items were notably firm last month. Apparel store sales surged 2.6% (6.6% y/y) but the prior month was revised down to a 0.5% decline. Furniture, home furnishings & appliance stores sales also surged 1.7% after the 0.3% rise during October. Prior months' slight declines were revised positive. Sales of electronics & appliances jumped 2.5% (5.0% y/y). Sales at general merchandise stores increased 0.9% (5.0% y/y) after a little revised 0.1% October uptick.

Even sales of building materials were strong during November and posted a 1.2% (0.8% y/y) increase, though the prior month was revised down to a 0.8% decline.

Sales of nonstore retailers (internet & catalogue) ballooned 1.9% (10.7% y/y) and the prior month's decline was revised to a 0.4% increase.

Motor vehicle & parts purchases fell 1.0% (+1.9% y/y). The decline was somewhat at odds with the 0.9% m/m rise in unit sales of light vehicles during November.

Gasoline service station sales jumped 6.8%, lifted by the 9.9% m/m rise in gasoline prices. The 3.1% rise during October was very much upwardly revised. So far this month gas prices are down 1.6% from the November average of $3.08 per gallon.

Corporate Access to External Financing from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco can be found here.

  November October Y/Y 2006 2005 2004
Retail Sales & Food Services 1.2% 0.2% 6.3% 6.2% 6.6% 6.1%
  Excluding Autos 1.8% 0.4% 7.4% 7.3% 7.6% 7.1%
    Less Gasoline 1.1% 0.1% 5.3% 7.2% 6.6% 6.1%
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