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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Remain Lethargic
by Tom Moeller  July 14, 2011

Total retail & food service sales inched up 0.1% last month following a -0.1% slip during May and a 0.2% April rise, earlier reported as -0.2% and 0.3%, respectively. The June decline roughly matched Consensus expectations for no-change, according to the Action Economics survey. During the last three months, sales rose at a 0.9% annual rate versus a 6.4% increase during all of last year. Excluding autos, sales were unchanged. A 0.1% gain had been expected. During the last three months, nonauto sales rose at a 2.4% annual rate after a 5.7% increase last year.

The recent decline in prices caused gasoline expenditures to decline 1.3%. In addition, sales of motor vehicles gained only 0.8% after supply disruptions due to the earthquake & tsunami in Japan deepened a May drop. Excluding gasoline and autos, retail spending rose 0.3% last month. Three-month growth in sales fell to 3.4%. 

Discretionary spending was generally soft in June. Building material store sales, however, jumped another 1.3% (7.8% y/y). Elsewhere, apparel store sales gained just 0.7% (6.5% y/y) after no change during the prior two months. Also, sales at general merchandise outlets rose only 0.4% (4.0% y/y), but that followed two months of no change. Sales of furniture, home furnishings and appliances, off 0.5%, fell for the third straight month. June sales at furniture stores fell 0.8% (+0.5% y/y) while sales at electronics & appliance stores slipped 0.2% (-2.4% y/y). Sales at food service & drinking places fell 0.4% (+4.7% y/y). Even online shopping eased a bit. Sales of non-store retailers rose just 0.3% (12.3% y/y) and earlier gains were revised lower. 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 (%) Jun May Apr Jun Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.1 -0.1 0.2 8.1 6.4 -7.0 -1.2
  Excluding Autos 0.0 0.2 0.3 7.9 5.7 -5.5 2.1
Retail Sales 0.2 -0.2 0.3 8.5 6.8 -7.8 -1.6
   Motor Vehicle & Parts 0.8 -1.8 -0.5 8.9 10.0 -13.7 -14.0
 Retail excluding Autos 0.1 0.1 0.5 8.4 6.1 -6.3 2.1
   Gasoline -1.3 0.5 1.0 23.6 16.8 -22.2 10.4
 Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.3 0.1 0.4 5.9 4.5 -3.3 0.7
Food Service -0.4 0.8 -0.9 4.7 2.7 -0.5 2.2
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