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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Show Broad-based Gains
by Tom Moeller  April 16, 2012

Consumers were in a mood to spend last month, on most everything. Retail sales increased 0.8% (6.5% y/y) during March following little- revised gains of 1.0% and 0.7% during the prior two months. The gain exceeded Consensus expectations for a 0.4% rise according to Action Economics. The latest increase pulled three-month growth in spending to 10.4% (AR), the strongest in a year. Higher prices lifted sales at gasoline service stations by 1.1% (7.6% y/y). Outlays on motor vehicles also were strong and they increased 0.9% (8.3% y/y). Excluding both gasoline and autos, retail sales rose 0.8% last month (5.7% y/y) after a 0.5% February rise. Their three-month growth rate of 9.9% (AR) was the strongest in nearly two years.

Elsewhere, sales were broadly strong and led by a 3.0% gain (14.1% y/y) in building materials purchases. Furniture store sales increased 1.1% (6.6% y/y) and electronics stores showed a 1.0% (-3.1% y/y) rise. Clothing store sales gained 0.9% (7.9% y/y) and sales at general merchandise stores increased 0.7% (3.7% y/y). Sales by nonstore retailers also were firm and rose 0.7% (9.3% y/y). Food & beverages store sales rose a lesser 0.4% (3.5% y/y) while food service and drinking place sales increased 0.3% (6.3% y/y).

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

Retail Spending (%) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.8 1.0 0.7 6.5 7.7 6.4 -7.0
  Excluding Autos 0.8 0.9 1.2 6.1 7.2 5.7 -5.5
Retail Sales 0.8 1.1 0.7 6.5 7.9 6.8 -7.8
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 0.9 1.3 -1.6 8.3 10.1 9.8 -13.7
 Retail excluding Autos 0.8 1.0 1.2 6.0 7.4 6.1 -6.3
  Gasoline Stations 1.1 3.6 2.0 7.6 17.4 17.0 -22.2
 Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.8 0.5 1.1 5.7 5.7 4.5 -3.3
Food Service 0.3 0.5 1.1 6.3 5.9 2.6 -0.5
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