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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Slip Due To Autos
by Tom Moeller  June 14, 2011

Total retail & food service sales slipped 0.2% last month after a 0.3% April increase and a 0.8% March gain, both revised down slightly from 0.5% and 0.9%, respectively. The May decline roughly matched Consensus expectations for a 0.3% drop, according to the Action Economics survey. During the last three months, sales rose at a 3.2% annual rate versus a 6.4% increase during all of last year. Excluding autos, sales rose an expected 0.3% last month after a downwardly 0.5% April gain. During the last three months, nonauto sales rose at an 8.4% annual rate after a 5.7% increase last year.

The recent down-drift in gasoline prices held back the rise in expenditures on gas to 0.3% (22.3% y/y). In addition, supply disruptions due to the earthquake & tsunami in Japan held back spending on motor vehicles & parts. The 2.9% May decline followed a 0.7% April decline. Excluding gasoline and autos, retail spending rose 0.3% last month, its weakest gain of the year. Three-month growth in sales excluding autos & gasoline fell to 6.5%. 

Discretionary spending showed widespread easing. Sales of furniture, home furnishings and appliances fell 1.0% and three month growth fell to just 1.6%. May sales at furniture stores fell 0.7% (+0.4% y/y) while sales at electronics & appliance stores fell 1.3% (-0.3% y/y), down hard for the second consecutive month. Apparel store sales ticked up 0.2% (6.0% y/y) after a 0.2% April rise. Finally, sales at general merchandise outlets slipped 0.1% (4.1% y/y). Building material store sales jumped 1.2% (7.0% y/y) and sales at food service & drinking places rose 0.6% (5.3% y/y). Online shopping remains a preferred technique amongst retail shoppers. Sales of non-store retailers rose 1.2% (15.9% y/y). Currently, sales by electronic shopping & mail-order houses account for roughly ten percent of nonauto retail sales less building materials & gasoline.

The retail sales figure are available in Haver's USECON database. The Action Economics figures are in the AS1REPNA database.

Retail Spending (%) May Apr Mar May Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Total Retail Sales & Food Services -0.2 0.3 0.8 7.7 6.4 -7.0 -1.2
  Excluding Autos 0.3 0.5 1.2 8.2 5.7 -5.5 2.1
Retail Sales -0.3 0.4 0.7 8.0 6.8 -7.8 -1.6
   Motor Vehicle & Parts -2.9 -0.7 -1.4 5.4 9.9 -13.7 -14.0
 Retail excluding Autos 0.3 0.7 1.2 8.7 6.1 -6.3 2.1
   Gasoline 0.3 1.4 3.8 22.3 16.8 -22.2 10.4
 Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.3 0.5 0.8 6.4 4.5 -3.3 0.7
Food Service 0.6 -0.8 1.1 5.3 2.7 -0.5 2.2
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