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Economy in Brief

U.S. Vehicle Sales Fueled Again By Cars
by Tom Moeller  March 2, 2012

Sales of light motor vehicles continued on the fast track last month. Unit vehicle sales rose 6.5% m/m to 15.10M (AR) during February according to Autodata Corporation. That sales rate was up 13.7% versus one year earlier and was the highest since March 2008. It easily beat the Consensus estimate for 14.0M sales, according to Bloomberg.

As was the case during January, the overall sales gain reflected much higher auto sales. Their 10.6% m/m gain (22.4% y/y) to 8.21M no doubt reflected fuel efficiency and much higher gasoline prices. The monthly rise owed to a 9.7% gain (19.1% y/y) in domestic car sales to 5.48M and a 12.4% rise (29.5% y/y) in imports to 2.72M. Light truck sales rose a modest 2.1% m/m (4.8% y/y) to 6.89M reflecting a 2.5% gain (6.6% y/y) to 5.87M in domestic truck purchases. Sales of imported light trucks slipped 0.3% (-4.7% y/y) to 1.03M.

Imports' share of the U.S. light vehicle market rose to 24.8% in February, up modestly versus twelve months ago. (Imported vehicles are those produced outside the United States.) That share was, however, down from its peak of 29.9% in Q1'09. The lower foreign exchange value of the dollar must have played a role as it made imports relatively more expensive. Imports' share of the U.S. car market increased m/m to 33.2% but was down from its 38.1% peak. Imports' share of the light truck market slipped 14.9% last month, down from its 23.9% peak in early '09. 

The U.S. vehicle sales figures can be found in Haver's USECON database.

Accommodative Monetary Policy and Its Effects On Savers is yesterday's speech by Fed Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin and it is available here.

Light Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Mil. Units) Feb Jan Dec Y/Y % 2011 2010 2009
Total 15.10 14.18 13.56 13.7 12.78 11.58 10.38
 Autos 8.21 7.42 6.52 22.4 6.24 5.79 5.45
  Domestic 5.48 5.00 4.20 19.1 4.22 3.78 3.56
  Imported 2.72 2.42 2.32 29.5 2.02 2.00 1.89
 Light Trucks 6.89 6.76 7.04 4.8 6.54 5.79 4.93
  Domestic 5.87 5.73 6.04 6.6 5.55 4.84 3.96
  Imported 1.03 1.03 1.00 -4.7 1.00 0.96 0.97
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