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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Above Expectations: Auto Sales & Gas Prices Rose
by Tom Moeller February 13, 2008

U.S. retail sales rose 0.3% during January following an unrevised 0.4% decline during December. The gain beat expectations for a 0.2% decline.

Motor vehicle & parts purchases rose 0.6% (-0.2% y/y). The rise contrasted with an earlier report of a 6.3% m/m decline in unit sales of light vehicles during January.

Excluding autos, retail sales last month barely exceeded expectations and rose 0.3%. That made up a little revised 0.3% December drop. November sales were revised down slightly.

Higher gasoline prices provided lift to retail sales with a 2.0% (23.0% y/y) gain. That, in part, reflected a 0.8% m/m rise in gas prices. Less gasoline & autos, retail sales were unchanged and prior months' results were taken down.

Last month, sales of building materials fell 1.7% (-4.8% y/y). Taking out these very volatile components of retail spending to perhaps gain a better sense of underlying consumer spending growth, retail sales less autos, gasoline and building materials rose 0.2% last month (3.5% y/y).

Food & beverage store sales also provided lift to January sales with a 0.6% (5.7% y/y) rise. Restaurant & drinking place sales fell 0.5% (+4.4% y/y).

Sales of discretionary items generally were soft last month. Apparel store sales did rise 1.4% but that failed to fully make up a 2.3% December decline. Clothing store sales last month were 0.1% below the January level in 2007. Furniture, home furnishings & appliance store sales fell 0.7% (-3.0% y/y) for the third decline in the last four months. Sales of electronics & appliances dropped 1.0% after a 3.2% December slide. Sales at general merchandise stores rose 0.1% (2.4% y/y) after December's gain of 0.2%.

Sales of nonstore retailers (internet & catalogue) rose 0.5% (10.6% y/y).

Housing, Credit and Consumer Expenditure from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City can be found here.

  January December Y/Y 2007 2006 2005
Retail Sales & Food Services 0.3% -0.4% 3.9% 4.1% 6.2% 6.6%
  Excluding Autos 0.3% -0.3% 4.9% 4.6% 7.3% 7.6%
    Less Gasoline 0.0% -0.3% 2.6% 4.3% 7.2% 6.6%
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