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Economy in Brief

U.S. Chain Store Sales Trend Lower
by Tom Moeller  January 25, 2011

Consumers' loss of their jolly, holiday spirit quickened last week. Sales at chain stores fell 1.2% after declines of 0.1% and 3.2% during the prior two weeks. The average level so far this month was the lowest since last February. During the last ten years there has been a 66% correlation between the y/y change in chain store sales and the change in retail sales at general merchandise stores. That correlation recently has increased. General merchandise store sales account for 15% of total retail sales.

The ICSC-Goldman Sachs 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 last ten years there has been a 69% correlation between the year-to-year growth in chain store sales and the growth in general merchandise retail sales. The weekly figures are available in Haver's SURVEYW database.

The leading indicator of chain store sales rose minimally last week. The index has moved sideways since August. The composite leading economic indicator is compiled from four series: (1) the MBA's volume index of mortgage applications for home purchase (2) the ABC News/Money magazine's survey of consumer buying conditions (3) new filings for jobless benefits and (4) the 30-year government bond yield.

ICSC-UBS (SA, 1977=100) 1/22/11 1/15/11 1/8/11 Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Total Weekly Chain Store Sales 493.2 499.1 499.4 2.8% 2.9% 0.1% 1.4%
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