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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Post A Firm Gain
by Tom Moeller  October 14, 2011

The consumer got tired of not spending last month. That's the message from a firm 1.1% increase in September retail & food service sales. It followed an upwardly revised 0.3% August increase, last month reported as unchanged. The September gain was double the Consensus expectation for a 0.5% rise, according to the Action Economics survey. In another sign of recovery, the three-month increase in sales of 1.9% (AR) improved on the negligible gains from April to July.

Improved sales of motor vehicles were a big part of last month's spending gain with a 3.6% m/m (8.5% y/y) increase. That compares to the already-reported 8.0% (10.8% y/y) rise in unit sales of motor vehicles. Excluding autos, total retail sales rose 0.6% (7.8% y/y). Expectations had been for a 0.3% rise. To fuel the autos, sales of gasoline also were firm with a 1.2% increase. (Prices rose 1.7% when seasonally adjusted by Haver.) Excluding both autos and gasoline, retail sales increased 0.5% last month (6.0% y/y), about the same as they did during the prior three months.

A 1.3% increase (7.6% y/y) in sales at clothing & accessory stores led last month's gain in retail sales, following two months of moderate decline. Also up  were sales at general merchandise stores, by 0.7% (4.5% y/y). Sales of furniture & appliances rose a steady 0.6% (1.5% y/y) powered by a 1.1% increase (3.2% y/y) in furniture. Sales of electronics & appliances rose a weaker 0.2% and were unchanged y/y. Sales of building materials lagged with a 0.1% slip (+6.5% y/y). Finally, sales of food service and drinking places rose 1.2% (6.9% y/y) after much more moderate gains during the prior three months. 

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

The Future of Inflation from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is available here.

Retail Spending (%) Sep Aug Jul Sep Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 1.1 0.3 0.4 7.9 6.4 -7.0 -1.2
  Excluding Autos 0.6 0.5 0.4 7.8 5.7 -5.5 2.1
Retail Sales 1.1 0.3 0.5 8.1 6.8 -7.8 -1.6
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 3.6 -0.8 0.7 8.5 10.0 -13.7 -14.0
 Retail excluding Autos 0.5 0.5 0.4 8.0 6.1 -6.3 2.1
  Gasoline Stations 1.2 0.8 1.0 20.3 16.9 -22.2 10.4
 Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.5 0.5 0.3 6.0 4.2 -2.9 0.9
Food Service 1.2 0.4 0.1 6.9 2.7 -0.5 2.2
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