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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Post a Modest Rebound
by Tom Moeller  March 13, 2014

Retail spending recovered 0.3% last month (1.5% y/y) following a 0.6% January decline, revised from -0.4%. The latest gain roughly matched the 0.2% rise expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. A 0.3% improvement (2.2% y/y) in sales of motor vehicles & parts, following January's 2.2% drop, helped last month's rise. Nonauto retail sales improved 0.3% (1.3% y/y) after a downwardly revised 0.3% January shortfall. A 0.2% increase had been expected.

In the discretionary spending categories, sales at apparel & accessory stores recovered 0.4% (2.6% y/y) after January's 1.8% drop. Purchases at furniture & home furnishings stores also improved 0.4% (0.3% y/y) after three months of decline. Sales of electronics & appliance stores, however, were off 0.2% (-2.4% y/y) following a strong January. Also to the downside, general merchandise store sales fell 0.3% (-0.8% y/y), the fourth consecutive month of decline. Remaining strong were sales of nonstore retailers which rebounded 1.2% (6.3% y/y) following January's 1.0% fall. Purchases of building materials & garden equipment rose 0.3% (3.2% y/y) while sales at sporting goods stores jumped 2.5% (-5.2% y/y) after falling sharply for two months.

Nondiscretionary purchases were mixed. Sales at food & beverage stores were off 0.2% (+2.8% y/y) after a 0.1% January uptick. Sales at health & personal care stores, however, jumped 1.2% (5.5% y/y) after a 0.8% January decline. Gasoline service station sales ticked 0.1% higher (-4.6% y/y) following a 1.0% January surge.

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

Retail Spending (%) Feb Jan Dec Feb Y/Y 2013 2012 2011
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.3 -0.6 -0.3 1.5 4.3 5.3 7.5
  Excluding Autos 0.3 -0.3 0.1 1.3 3.3 4.8 7.0
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline & Building Supplies 0.3 -0.6 -0.0 2.2 3.7 4.8 5.5
Retail Sales 0.3 -0.6 -0.2 1.3 4.4 5.1 7.7
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 0.3 -2.2 -2.1 2.2 9.0 7.5 10.1
 Retail Less Autos 0.3 -0.2 0.3 1.1 3.2 4.5 7.1
  Gasoline Stations 0.1 1.0 1.4 -4.6 -0.7 4.1 18.4
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 0.3 -0.9 -1.0 2.6 4.2 7.1 6.0
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