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Economy in Brief

U.S. Chain Store Sales Continue Their Post-Holiday Skid
by Tom Moeller January 24, 2012

After Christmas, shoppers seem to have turned less jolly. Chain store sales fell 1.4% last week (+2.8% y/y). The decline pulled the January average 3.1% below December when sales rose 1.1%. During the last ten years there has been a 72% 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 leading indicator of chain store sales improved 1.1% w/w (2.3% y/y) in the latest period, leaving January so far equal to the December average. 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.

The chain store sales data are in Haver's SURVEYW.

How Good Are the Government's Deficit and Debt Projections and Should We Care? from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis can be found here.

ICSC-UBS (SA, 1977=100) 01/20/12 01/13/12 01/06/12 Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Total Weekly Chain Store Sales 507.0 514.0 513.6 2.8% 3.2% 2.9% 0.1%
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