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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Led Lower by Gasoline Price Decline
by Tom Moeller  April 12, 2013

Retail sales during March fell 0.4% (+2.8% y/y) following a 1.0% rise in February, earlier reported as 1.1%. The latest decline was deeper than an expected 0.1% slip, according to Action Economics. Retail sales excluding autos also fell 0.4% (+3.9% y/y) after an unrevised 1.0% increase. No change in sales was expected.

Sales declines last month were widespread across spending categories. Leading last month's shortfall was a 2.2% (-0.4% y/y) drop gasoline service station sales. Also off 0.6% (+6.5% y/y) were purchases of motor vehicles & parts as unit vehicle sales sagged. Building material sales inched up 0.1% (0.8% y/y). Spending outside of these three areas is used in calculating a portion of gross domestic product, and these sales fell 0.3% (+2.1% y/y) last month. For the quarter these purchases rose 3.0% (AR), about the same as during Q4'12.

Sales at electronics and appliance stores were quite weak last month and fell 1.6% (-3.2% y/y), down for the fourth straight month. Sales at general merchandise stores followed with a 1.2% drop (-4.9% y/y), off for the sixth month in the last seven. Higher sales of furniture & home furnishing stores countered these declines with a 0.9% rise (2.8% y/y) after a 1.4% February fall. Apparel store sales ticked up 0.1% (2.1% y/y) after a 0.3% February drop. 

Food & beverage store sales slipped 0.1% (3.0% y/y) but a 0.7% rise (4.3% y/y) in restaurant sales offset this weakness. Sales of nonstore retailers rose 0.3% (13.5% y/y) following a 1.4% jump during February.   

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

 

Retail Spending (%) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y 2012 2011 2010
Total Retail Sales & Food Services -0.4 1.0 -0.1 2.8 5.0 8.0 5.5
  Excluding Autos -0.4 1.0 0.1 3.9 4.4 7.4 4.5
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline & Building Supplies -0.3 0.4 0.1 2.1 3.9 6.1 3.6
Retail Sales -0.6 1.2 -0.0 2.6 4.8 8.3 5.8
  Motor Vehicle & Parts -0.6 1.3 -0.8 6.5 7.6 10.8 10.8
 Retail excluding Autos -0.6 1.2 0.2 1.7 4.1 7.6 4.7
  Gasoline Stations -2.2 5.4 0.3 -0.4 3.8 17.8 14.7
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 0.7 -0.5 -0.5 4.3 7.1 5.9 3.2
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