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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Rise Despite Fewer Auto Purchases
by Tom Moeller  February 14, 2012

Retail sales recovered last month following weak holiday spending. Retail sales rose 0.4% (5.8% y/y) during January after a revised no-change in December, initially reported as a 0.1% uptick. Consensus expectations had been for a 0.7% rise according to Action Economics. January sales were held back by an unexpected decline in auto sales. Nonauto sales rose 0.7% last month after a 0.5% December decline, revised from -0.2%. Consensus expectations had been for a gain of 0.5% in nonauto sales.

Motor vehicle sales fell a surprising 1.1% (+7.3% y/y). It was unexpected since unit motor vehicle sales for January, reported earlier this month, rose 4.6% m/m. Price discounts may have lowered the dollar value of sales. Sales at gasoline service stations rose 1.4% (7.4% y/y). When adjusted by Haver Analytics seasonal factors, gasoline prices rose 0.3% m/m (9.3% y/y). Excluding both autos and gasoline, retail sales rose 0.6% last month (4.7% y/y) after a 0.3% December decline.

Sales at food & beverage stores rose 1.3% (4.3% y/y). Building materials sales ticked up just 0.2% (8.1% y/y) but purchases of other discretionary items again were mixed. Sales of furniture, home furnishings & appliances rose 0.2% (3.3% y/y) following a 1.8% December drop. General merchandise store sales rose 2.0% (5.8% y/y) after December's 0.7% decline. Sales at clothing & accessory stores were unchanged (5.3% y/y) following two months of moderate increase. Sales by nonstore retailers fell 1.1% (+4.9% y/y). Finally, restaurant sales rose 0.6% (8.2% y/y).

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

Retail Spending (%) Jan Dec Nov Jan Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.4 0.0 0.3 5.8 7.7 6.4 -7.0
  Excluding Autos 0.7 -0.5 0.2 5.5 7.2 5.7 -5.5
Retail Sales 0.4 -0.0 0.3 5.5 7.9 6.8 -7.8
  Motor Vehicle & Parts -1.1 2.5 0.7 7.3 10.1 9.8 -13.7
 Retail excluding Autos 0.7 -0.7 0.2 5.1 7.4 6.1 -6.3
  Gasoline Stations 1.4 -2.6 1.0 7.4 17.4 17.0 -22.2
 Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.6 -0.3 0.0 4.7 5.7 4.5 -3.3
Food Service 0.6 0.4 0.2 8.2 5.9 2.6 -0.5
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