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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Remain Little Changed
by Tom Moeller  November 13, 2015

Overall retail sales including food services & drinking places in October edged 0.1% higher (1.8% y/y) following no change during the prior two months. September was revised from +0.1%. A 0.3% rise had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Sales excluding autos improved 0.2% (0.8% y/y) after a 0.4% decline, revised from -0.3%. A 0.4% increase 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 rose 0.2% (3.2% y/y) after a 0.1% September rise, revised from -0.1%. Gasoline service station sales fell 0.9% (-20.0% y/y), down for the fourth straight month.

Light motor vehicle & parts sales declined 0.5% (+6.0% y/y) after a 1.4% gain. The rise compared to a 0.4% increase in unit sales of cars and light trucks. Building materials & garden equipment sales gained 0.9% (2.7% y/y) following declines in three of the prior four months.

In other discretionary spending categories, general merchandise store sales fell 0.4% (+2.6% y/y) after a 0.5% gain. Electronics & appliance stores sales also fell 0.4% (-3.2% y/y) and reversed September's 0.4% rise. Clothing and accessory store sales eased slightly (+4.0% y/y) for the third straight month. To the upside, sporting goods, hobby shop, book & music store sales increased 0.4% (6.2% y/y) after a 1.3% jump and sales of furniture & home furnishings also increased 0.4% (5.3% y/y) after a 0.6% rise. Internet sales surged 1.4% (5.3% y/y) after a 0.3% gain. Restaurant sales rose 0.5% (7.0% y/y) following a 0.2% decline.

In the nondiscretionary spending categories, health & personal care store sales were firm and posted a 0.7% increase (3.9% y/y) following a 0.2% increase. Food & beverage store sales fell 0.3% (+2.2% y/y), down for the second straight month.

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

Permazero is the title of yesterday's speech by James Bullard, President & CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and it is available here.

Retail Spending (%) Oct Sep Aug Oct Y/Y 2014 2013 2012
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.1 -0.0 0.0 1.8 3.9 3.7 5.0
  Excluding Autos 0.2 -0.4 -0.1 0.8 3.1 2.7 4.1
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline, Building Supplies & Food Services 0.2 0.1 0.2 3.2 3.3 2.7 3.6
Retail Sales -0.0 0.0 -0.0 1.1 3.7 3.8 4.9
  Motor Vehicle & Parts -0.5 1.4 0.3 6.0 7.5 8.3 9.0
 Retail Less Autos 0.2 -0.4 -0.1 -0.2 2.6 2.6 3.9
  Gasoline Stations -0.9 -4.0 -2.2 -20.0 -2.7 -0.7 4.3
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 0.5 -0.2 0.4 7.0 6.2 3.4 5.9
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