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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Decline for Third Consecutive Month
by Tom Moeller  March 14, 2018

Total retail sales slipped 0.1% (+4.0% y/y) during February, following two months of similar decline. January's result was revised from -0.3% reported initially. A 0.4% increase had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales improved 0.2% (4.4% y/y) following a 0.1% rise, revised from a slight decline. A 0.4% increase had been expected.

Sales of discretionary items were mixed last month. Sales of motor vehicles & parts fell 0.9% (+2.3% y/y), down for the fourth consecutive month. It compared to a 0.5% decline in unit auto sales reported earlier this month. Sales at furniture & home furnishing stores weakened 0.8% (+3.3% y/y), off for the third straight month. General merchandise store sales fell 0.4% (+2.4% y/y) and reversed the prior month's rise. Electronics appliance store sales eased 0.1% (+4.5% y/y) following a 1.1% jump. Countering these declines was a 2.2% increase (-3.5% y/y) in sporting goods, hobby, book & music store purchases which followed three straight months of lower sales. Building materials & garden equipment store sales increased 1.9% (4.6% y/y) and reversed January's decline. Sales of nonstore retailers improved 1.0% (10.1% y/y) after a 0.9% shortfall. Clothing & accessory store sales improved 0.4% (4.9% y/y) after a 0.9% increase.

Gasoline service station sales fell 1.2% (+7.9 y/y) as pump prices declined, following a 1.9% rise.

Sales of nondiscretionary items softened last month. Health & personal care store sales fell 0.4% (+0.4% y/y), the fourth straight monthly shortfall. Food & beverage store sales eased slightly (+3.2% y/y) for a second straight month.

Food service & drinking establishment sales improved 0.2% (2.7% y/y) after a 0.1 % uptick.

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

Rising Public Debt to GDP Can Harm Economic Growth from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is available here.

Retail Spending (% chg) Feb Jan Dec Feb Y/Y 2017 2016 2015
Total Retail Sales & Food Services -0.1 -0.1 -0.1 4.0 4.2 3.2 2.6
  Excluding Autos 0.2 0.1 -0.0 4.4 4.2 3.0 1.4
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.3 -0.2 0.0 4.0 3.6 3.9 4.2
Retail Sales -0.1 -0.1 -0.2 4.0 4.4 2.9 1.9
  Motor Vehicle & Parts -0.9 -0.9 -0.2 2.3 4.1 4.1 7.3
 Retail Less Autos 0.1 0.1 -0.2 4.7 4.5 2.5 0.4
  Gasoline Stations -1.2 1.9 0.1 7.9 8.9 -5.7 -17.6
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 0.2 0.1 0.8 2.7 2.8 5.9 8.1
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