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Economy in Brief

U.S. Chain Store Sales Up Slightly and Gasoline Prices Up Sharply
by Tom Moeller March 18, 2008

For last week, the International Council of Shopping Centers ICSC-UBS Chain Store survey indicated that chain store sales rose 0.4% and added to the prior week's 0.3% rise. The increases raised the average level of sales so far this month 0.2% from February after that month's 0.4% increase.

During the last ten years there has been a 45% correlation between the y/y change in chain store sales and the change in nonauto retail sales less gasoline.

The ICSC-UBS retail chain-store sales index is constructed using the same-store sales (stores open for one year) reported by 78 stores of seven retailers: Dayton Hudson, Federated, Kmart, May, J.C. Penney, Sears and Wal-Mart.

During the latest week the leading indicator of chain store sales from ICSC-UBS remained quit week and was unchanged w/w.The index has trended steadily lower since early January.

Retail gasoline prices were again strong last week and repeated the prior period's six cent rise. The level of $3.28 per gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy survey, was a new high.In real terms (calculated as the CPI for gasoline divided by the total CPI less energy) gasoline prices remained in February just above the old high reached early in 1981.

Real gasoline prices likely will reach a new high this month as the wholesale price of gasoline is up more than ten cents from the February average.

Crude oil prices have been quite strong with the average for WTI crude at $109.43 per bbl., up roughly ten dollars from the February average. Crude prices backed off slightly yesterday.

These energy price series are available in Haver's Daily and Weekly databases.

ICSC-UBS (SA, 1977=100) 03/14/08 03/08/08 Y/Y 2007 2006 2005
Total Weekly Chain Store Sales 490.1 488.3 1.6% 2.8% 3.3% 3.6%
Weekly Prices 03/17/08 03/10/08 Y/Y 2007 2006 2005
Retail Gasoline ($ per Gallon) 3.28 3.23 27.4% 2.80 2.57 2.27
Light Sweet Crude Oil, WTI  ($ per bbl.) 109.43 103.43 88.9% 94.00 61.11 58.16
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