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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Strength Pulls Back
by Tom Moeller  May 15, 2012

Consumers lost their inclination to spend last month. Following four consecutive months of firm increase, retail sales ticked just 0.1% higher during April. That followed little-revised increases of 0.7% and 1.1% in March and February, respectively. The latest uptick roughly matched Consensus expectations for a 0.2% rise according to Action Economics. Three-month growth in spending held firm at 7.7% (AR). Outlays on motor vehicles picked up slightly to 0.5% (8.4% y/y) while lower prices lessened gasoline purchases by 0.3% (+5.5% y/y) following three months of strong increase. Excluding autos and gasoline, retail sales nudged up 0.1% (5.5% y/y).

Weakness in spending last month was led by a 1.8% decline (+10.3% y/y) in building materials purchases. Sales of clothing also fell 0.7% (+5.4% y/y) after a 0.1% March slip and general merchandise sales ticked 0.1% (+2.6% y/y) lower. Some of this weakness was offset by a 0.5% gain (4.5% y/y) in furniture & appliances. Furniture store sales rose 0.7% (7.6% y/y) and appliance & electronics purchases gained 0.2% (1.7% y/y). Food & beverages store sales rose 0.3% (3.2% y/y) and sales of health & personal care stores increased 0.6% (4.4% y/y). Sales of food services and drinking places gained 0.4% (8.6% y/y).

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

Retail Spending (%) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.1 0.7 1.1 6.4 7.9 5.5 -7.1
  Excluding Autos 0.1 0.8 1.0 5.9 7.3 4.5 -5.7
Retail Sales 0.1 0.7 1.1 6.1 8.2 5.8 -7.9
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 0.5 0.2 1.3 8.4 10.8 10.8 -13.9
 Retail excluding Autos 0.0 0.8 1.0 5.5 7.5 4.7 -6.4
  Gasoline Stations -0.3 1.0 3.3 5.5 17.7 14.7 -22.0
 Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.1 0.7 0.6 5.5 5.8 3.2 -3.4
Food Service 0.4 0.9 0.7 8.6 5.9 3.2 -0.9
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