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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Have Small August Rise, but Durable-Good- Type Stores Generally Firmer
by Carol Stone  September 13, 2013

Retail sales rose 0.2% in August (+4.7% y/y), less than in July, but that month and June were both revised modestly higher, July to 0.4% from 0.2% and June to 0.7% from 0.6%. A 0.4% rise had been expected according to Action Economics survey. Total sales excluding motor vehicles eased to a 0.1% increase in August (+3.3% y/y) from 0.6% in July, which was revised from 0.5%. The latest increase also came below expectations, which looked for a 0.3% advance.

Sales at motor vehicles & parts dealers rebounded by 0.9% (+10.9% y/y) last month, and July was revised to a 0.5% decrease from down 1.0% reported before. There were also sizable gains in August at furniture stores, up 0.9% (+4.9% y/y), electronics & appliance stores, up 0.8% (+3.1% y/y) and miscellaneous stores, up 1.0% (+4.2% y/y). So several durable goods sectors had firm performances in the latest period. At the same time, building materials, supplies and hardware sales retreated 0.9% (+7.6% y/y) following their 1.8% surge in July.

Gasoline service station sales were flat in August (-1.5% y/y) as pump prices edged lower. The sales total excluding gas stations, building materials and motor vehicle dealers is used in calculating gross domestic product, and that "excluding" subset edged up 0.1% last month (+3.5% y/y) after a 0.5% gain in July and 0.4% in June.

Other nondurable-type sales were mixed. Health and personal care stores saw a 0.6% gain in August (+3.6% y/y), as did department stores, in their first gain since January (-5.3% y/y). But clothing store sales fell 0.8% (+3.6% y/y) and general merchandise stores other than department stores were weak enough to push total general merchandise outlets down 0.2% (+0.3% y/y). Food & beverage store sales increased 0.1% (3.6% y/y). Restaurant sales rose 0.3% (+3.8% y/y) and spending at nonstore retailers rose 0.5% (10.2% y/y) after 1.3% in both July and June.

The retail sales figures are available in Haver's USECONdatabase. The Action Economics figures are in the AS1REPNAdatabase. 

Retail Spending (%) Aug Jul Jun Aug Y/Y 2012 2011 2010
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.2 0.4 0.7 4.7 5.3 7.5 5.5
  Excluding Autos 0.1 0.6 0.2 3.3 4.8 7.0 4.5
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline & Building Supplies 0.2 0.5 0.2 3.6 4.3 5.4 3.5
Retail Sales 0.2 0.4 0.8 4.8 5.0 7.7 5.8
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 0.9 -0.5 2.7 10.9 7.5 10.1 10.6
 Retail Less Autos 0.0 0.7 0.3 3.2 4.4 7.1 4.6
  Gasoline Stations 0.0 0.7 0.7 -1.5 4.0 18.4 14.6
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 0.3 0.5 -0.6 3.8 7.2 6.0 3.2
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