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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Are Little Changed Again
by Tom Moeller  October 14, 2015

Overall retail sales including food services & drinking places during September notched 0.1% higher (-5.6% y/y) following no change in August, revised from 0.2%. A 0.2% rise had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Sales excluding autos fell 0.3% (+5.2% y/y) after a downwardly revised 0.1% dip. A 0.1% shortfall had been expected. During the last ten years, there has been a 92% correlation between the y/y change in retail sales and the change in real GDP.

Sales in the retail control group do not include autos, gasoline, building materials & food services. They align with the consumer spending estimates in the GDP accounts. Sales in this grouping slipped 0.1% (+3.4% y/y) after a 0.2% August rise. Gasoline service station sales fell 3.2% (-20.0% y/y), down for the third straight month.

Light motor vehicle sales increased 1.7% (8.7% y/y) after a 0.4% gain. The rise compared to a 2.0% increase in unit sales of cars and light trucks. Building materials & garden equipment sales fell 0.3% (+3.0% y/y) and added to a 1.3% August drop.

In other discretionary spending categories, clothing and accessory store sales improved 0.9% (5.0% y/y) after a 0.2% rise. Sporting goods, hobby shop, book & music store sales also increased 0.9% (6.4% y/y), reversing a 0.8% drop. Sales of furniture & home furnishings increased 0.6% (5.8% y/y) after a 0.4% decline. Showing weakness were general merchandise store sales as they eased 0.1% (+2.1% y/y) after a 0.3% rise. Sales at electronics & appliance stores fell 0.2% (-5.2% y/y) on the heels of a 0.1% uptick. Internet sales fell 0.2% (+5.2% y/y) after a similar in decline in August, but restaurant sales gained 0.7% (8.4% y/y) for a second consecutive month.

In the nondiscretionary spending categories, health & personal care store sales remained unchanged (3.5% y/y) following a 0.7% increase. Food & beverage store sales fell 0.3% (+3.0% y/y) and reversed a 0.4% increase.

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

The Fed's latest Beige Book covering regional economic conditions is available here.

Retail Spending (%) Sep Aug Jul Sep Y/Y 2014 2013 2012
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.1 0.0 0.8 -5.6 3.9 3.7 5.0
  Excluding Autos -0.3 -0.1 0.6 5.2 3.1 2.7 4.1
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline, Building Supplies & Food Services -0.1 0.2 0.5 3.4 3.3 2.7 3.6
Retail Sales 0.0 -0.1 0.8 1.7 3.7 3.8 4.9
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 1.7 0.4 1.5 8.7 7.5 8.3 9.0
 Retail Less Autos -0.5 -0.2 0.6 -0.3 2.6 2.6 3.9
  Gasoline Stations -3.2 -2.0 -1.0 -20.0 -2.7 -0.7 4.3
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 0.7 0.7 0.4 8.4 6.2 3.4 5.9
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