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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Strengthen
by Tom Moeller  August 15, 2017

The consumer rediscovered the spending spirit last month. Total retail sales and spending at restaurants increased 0.6% (3.6% y/y) during July following a 0.3% June rise, revised from -0.2%. It was the largest increase this year. A 0.4% increase had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Leading the rise were sales at motor vehicle & parts dealerships which jumped 1.2% (5.5% y/y), compared to a 0.4% gain (-5.9% y/y) in unit motor vehicle sales. Retail sales excluding autos increased 0.5% (3.1% y/y) after a 0.1% uptick, revised from -0.2%. This was the largest gain since January. A 0.3% rise had been expected.

Spending on nonauto discretionary items generally firmed last month. Sales at nonstore retailers increased 1.3% (11.4% y/y) following two months of 1.0% rise. Purchases at building materials and garden equipment stores strengthened 1.2% (8.5% y/y) after a 1.1% gain. Furniture & home furnishings store sales rose 0.4% (4.3% y/y) following two months of larger gains. Sporting goods & hobby shop store sales gained 0.3% (-5.7% y/y) after declines during three of the prior four months. General merchandise store sales ticked 0.1% higher (1.4% y/y) following two months when sales were unchanged. Declining were electronics & appliance store sales which fell 0.5% (-1.4% y/y), down for the third straight month. Clothing & accessory store sales were off 0.2% (0.1% y/y) following a 0.7% rise.

In the nondiscretionary sector, health & personal care store sales increased 0.4% (1.6% y/y) after two months of 0.3% increase. Food & beverage store sales rebounded 0.4% (1.4% y/y) following a 0.7% decline.

Restaurant sales improved 0.3% (2.1% y/y), about as they have for three straight months.

The retail sales data can be found in Haver's USECON database. The Action Economics forecast expectations are included in the AS1REPNA database.

Retail Spending (%) Jul Jun May Jul Y/Y 2016 2015 2014
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.6 0.3 0.0 3.6 3.2 2.6 4.3
  Excluding Autos 0.5 0.1 -0.2 3.1 3.0 1.4 3.8
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.6 0.2 0.1 3.2 3.9 4.2 4.6
Retail Sales 0.6 0.3 -0.0 3.8 2.9 1.9 4.1
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 1.2 0.9 1.1 5.5 4.1 7.3 6.4
 Retail Less Autos 0.5 0.0 -0.3 3.3 2.5 0.4 3.4
  Gasoline Stations -0.4 -1.5 -3.1 1.4 -5.7 -17.6 -2.0
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 0.3 0.3 0.4 2.1 5.9 8.1 6.1
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