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Economy in Brief

U.S. Chain Store Sales Remain Lackluster
by Tom Moeller  November 20, 2012

The data on U.S. chain store sales just don't show upward momentum entering the holiday season. Sales slipped 0.3% last week and left the November average 3.5% below last July. 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 sales improvement appear limited. The leading indicator of purchases at chain stores fell 0.6 w/w and that left the 4.4% y/y change below the early March peak of 5.3%. 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) 11/17/12 11/10/12 11/03/12 Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Total Weekly Chain Store Sales 530.6 532.2 528.4 2.5% 3.2% 2.9% 0.1%
   W/W % -0.3 0.7 -0.2 -- -- -- --
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