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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Spending Increase Is Disappointing 
by Tom Moeller  December 13, 2011

November retail & food service sales increased 0.2% following a little-revised 0.6% October gain. The latest, modest increase disappointed Consensus expectations for a 0.6% rise, according to the Action Economics survey. Nevertheless, three-month growth in sales remained solid at 8.7% (AR), still near its highest since Q1. Sales excluding autos also rose a modest 0.2% and were lower than expectations for a 0.5% rise.

Lackluster spending was in evidence throughout most categories. Motor vehicle sales rose just 0.5% (7.5% y/y) compared to a 2.8% gain in unit sales reported earlier this month. Sales of gasoline slipped 0.1% (+12.9% y/y) despite a 3.9% m/m gain in prices, when seasonally adjusted by Haver. Sales at food & beverage stores slipped 0.2% (+4.6% y/y) and sales of building materials fell 0.3% (+6.2% y/y).

Sales of discretionary items fared better. Sales of furniture, home furnishings & appliances jumped 1.3% (5.4% y/y) and essentially repeated the prior month's gain. Sales at clothing & accessory stores rose 0.5% (3.7% y/y) but that didn't make up the 0.8% October decline. Sales at general merchandise stores rose a modest 0.3% (2.7% y/y) after a 0.1% slip. Excluding both autos and gasoline, retail sales increased 0.3% last month (5.6% y/y) but that was the weakest gain since July.

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

Retail Spending (%) Nov Oct Sep Nov Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.2 0.6 1.3 6.7 6.4 -7.0 -1.2
  Excluding Autos 0.2 0.6 0.6 6.6 5.7 -5.5 2.1
Retail Sales 0.3 0.6 1.3 6.8 6.8 -7.8 -1.6
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 0.5 0.8 4.4 7.5 10.0 -13.7 -14.0
 Retail excluding Autos 0.2 0.6 0.5 6.7 6.1 -6.3 2.1
  Gasoline Stations -0.1 -0.4 0.6 12.9 16.9 -22.2 10.4
 Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.3 0.7 0.5 5.6 4.5 -3.3 0.7
Food Service -0.3 0.6 1.4 6.1 2.7 -0.5 2.2
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