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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Improvement Picks Up Momentum
by Tom Moeller  April 14, 2014

Retail sales gained 1.1% last month (3.8% y/y) following a 0.7% February increase, revised from 0.3%. The gain was the largest since September 2012 and roughly matched the 0.8% rise expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. A 3.1% jump (9.1% y/y) in sales of motor vehicles & parts, following February's 2.5% increase, powered last month's spending rise. Nonauto retail sales improved 0.7% (2.6% y/y) after an unrevised 0.3% February gain. A 0.4% increase had been expected.

In the discretionary spending categories, general merchandise store sales jumped 1.9% (1.9% y/y) following a 0.1% slip and purchases of building materials & garden equipment increased 1.8% (5.7% y/y) after a 0.6% decline. Remaining firm were sales of nonstore retailers which improved 1.7% (7.8% y/y) after a similar increase in February. Restaurant sales increased 1.1% (4.1% y/y) after a 0.7% rise. Also strong were sales at apparel & accessory stores, up 1.0% (2.1% y/y) after a 0.4% decline while sales at sporting goods stores improved 0.3% (-2.0% y/y) after a 2.3% jump. Offsetting these gains were purchases at furniture & home furnishings stores which fell 0.3% (+0.7% y/y) after a 0.7% rise. Sales at electronics & appliance stores also were off 1.6% (-0.7% y/y) following a 0.4% gain.

Nondiscretionary purchases gained modestly. Sales at food & beverage stores rose 0.2% (3.0% y/y) and recovered the prior month's decline. Sales at health & personal care stores increased 0.3% (5.2% y/y), the same as in February. Gasoline service station sales declined 1.3% (-3.3% y/y) following a 0.1% uptick.

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 2013 2012 2011
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 1.1 0.7 -0.7 3.8 4.4 5.3 7.5
  Excluding Autos 0.7 0.3 -0.3 2.6 3.3 4.8 7.0
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline & Building Supplies 0.9 0.5 -0.6 3.3 3.7 4.8 5.5
Retail Sales 1.1 0.7 -0.7 3.7 4.4 5.1 7.7
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 3.1 2.5 -2.4 9.1 9.0 7.5 10.1
 Retail Less Autos 0.6 0.3 -0.2 2.3 3.2 4.5 7.1
  Gasoline Stations -1.3 0.1 0.8 -3.3 -0.7 4.1 18.4
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 1.1 0.8 -0.8 4.1 4.2 7.1 6.0
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