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Economy in Brief

U.S. Chain Store Sales' Forward Momentum Improves
by Tom Moeller  March 6, 2012

Spend money: Consumers tend to do just that. And lately they've been at it wholeheartedly. Chain store sales rose 1.3% last week (1.7% y/y) and the increase lifted early-March spending 1.5% above the February average. The year-to-year increase fell, however, to a lessened 1.7% due to strength this time last year. 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.

Prospects for further spending improvement look good. The leading indicator of chain store sales rose 0.2% w/w in the latest period. Moreover, year-to-year improvement rose to 3.3% from the slight decline last fall. 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.

ICSC-UBS (SA, 1977=100) 03/03/12 02/25/12 02/18/12 Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Total Weekly Chain Store Sales 522.7 516.2 521.3 1.7% 3.2% 2.9% 0.1%
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