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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Restrained By Lower Gas Prices
by Tom Moeller  December 13, 2012

Total retail sales recovered 0.3% last month following an unrevised 0.3% October decline. A 0.4% rise November sales had been expected according to Action Economics. Retail sales were unchanged excluding autos, as expected, for the second consecutive month. The mix of sales, however, was more encouraging than these top-line numbers suggest.

Consumers spent less on gasoline last month as prices fell. A 4.0% drop (+0.8% y/y) in gas purchases accompanied a 2.5% decline in seasonally adjusted prices, as calculated by Haver. Also adding to volatility was a 1.4% recovery (5.4% y/y) in motor vehicle sales. Excluding gasoline and autos, retail sales rose a notable 0.7% (3.3% y/y) and more than recovered their 0.2% October falloff. Also adding to volatility was a 1.6% rise (5.4% y/y) in sales of building materials. A good indication of consumers' underlying ability to spend on discretionary items are sales without these volatile components. Excluding autos, gas and building materials, retail sales rose a respectable 0.5%. However, the 2.9% y/y increase was lower than the peak y/y gain of 7.1%, ending October of last year.

Sales of home furnishings, appliances and electronics jumped 1.7% (2.4% y/y) after a 0.7% October decline. Appliance and electronics purchases gained 2.5% (-1.0% y/y) while furniture store sales increased 1.0% (6.2% y/y). Sales of apparel & accessory stores gained 0.9% (6.4% y/y), the strongest m/m increase in six months. Working the other way were general merchandise purchases, down 0.9% (-2.7% y/y) and negative for the third straight month. Food & beverages store sales slipped 0.3 (+2.9% y/y) but sales of nonstore retailers jumped 3.0% (11.1% y/y).

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

 

Retail Spending (%) Nov Oct Sep Nov Y/Y 2011 2010 2009
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.3 -0.3 1.2 3.7 8.0 5.5 -7.1
  Excluding Autos 0.0 0.0 1.1 3.3 7.4 4.5 -5.7
Retail Sales 0.2 -0.4 1.2 3.4 8.3 5.8 -7.9
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 1.4 -1.9 1.9 5.4 10.9 10.8 -13.9
 Retail excluding Autos -0.1 -0.0 1.1 2.9 7.6 4.7 -6.4
  Gasoline Stations -4.0 1.0 1.9 0.8 17.9 14.7 -22.0
 Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.7 -0.2 0.9 3.3 5.9 3.2 -3.4
Food Service  0.8 0.2 1.1 6.0 5.9 3.2 -0.9
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