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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Increase Is Unexpectedly Strong
by Tom Moeller  September 12, 2014

Retail and food service sales improved 0.6% during August (5.0% y/y) following a revised 0.3% July gain, revised from no change. A 0.5% increase had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Sales increases were broad-based, led by a 1.5% jump (8.9% y/y) in auto sales. Nonauto sales increased 0.3% (4.1% y/y), beating expectations for a 0.2% rise.

The jump in auto sales followed a 0.6% July increase and was driven by a 6.4% rise (10.0% y/y) in unit auto purchases. Sales in most other discretionary spending categories were firm. Building material purchases increased 1.4% (6.7% y/y) and made up a 0.5% decline. Furniture sales rebounded 0.7% (3.0% y/y) following a 0.1% slip while sales of electronics & appliances also rose 0.7% (1.7% y/y) after a 0.1% uptick. Clothing purchases increased 0.3% (3.2% y/y) following a 0.9% jump. Sales of nonstore retailers edged 0.1% higher (7.1% y/y) after firm gains between 0.5% and 0.8% in the prior three months. To the downside, sales of general merchandise slipped 0.1% (+1.9% y/y) but that followed a strong 0.4% increase. Gasoline service station sales declined 0.8% (-0.8% y/y) after no change in July.

In the nondiscretionary spending categories, sales at health & personal care stores surged 0.6% (8.1% y/y), the same as in July. Food & beverage stores increased 0.3% (3.6% y/y) following a 0.2% rise.

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

Retail Spending (%) Aug Jul Jun Aug Y/Y 2013 2012 2011
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.6 0.3 0.4 5.0 4.2 5.1 7.5
  Excluding Autos 0.3 0.3 0.5 4.1 3.0 4.2 6.9
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline & Building Supplies 0.4 0.4 0.6 4.6 3.2 4.0 5.4
Retail Sales 0.6 0.3 0.4 4.8 4.3 5.0 7.6
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 1.5 0.6 -0.0 8.9 9.3 9.1 9.9
 Retail Less Autos 0.3 0.3 0.5 3.6 3.0 4.0 7.1
  Gasoline Stations -0.8 0.0 -0.8 -0.8 -0.4 4.2 18.3
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 0.6 0.4 0.4 7.1 3.0 5.9 6.0
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