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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Edge Higher
by Tom Moeller  September 14, 2018

Total retail sales improved 0.1% (6.6% y/y) during August following a 0.7% July gain, revised from 0.5%. A 0.4% increase had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales increased 0.3% (7.3% y/y) after a 0.9% rise, revised from 0.6%. A 0.5% gain had been expected. A measure of the underlying pace of retail spending is nonauto sales growth excluding gasoline and building materials. These sales increased 0.1% in August (5.3% y/y) following a 0.8% rise.

Sales patterns amongst categories were mixed last month. Nonstore retail sales rose 0.7% (9.3% y/y) after a 1.5% gain. General merchandise store sales nudged 0.1% higher (4.6% y/y) after a 1.0% strengthening. Electronics & appliance store sales increased 0.4% (4.1% y/y) and reversed July's decline. Gasoline station sales surged 1.7% (20.3% y/y), with higher prices, following a 0.8% gain. Sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores sales rose 0.2% (-4.0% y/y) after four months of decline. Building materials & garden equipment store sales were fairly steady (2.6% y/y) after a 0.1% uptick.

To the downside, clothing & accessory store sales declined 1.7% in August (+6.2% y/y) following a 2.2% rise. Also weak were sales of furniture & home furnishing stores which fell 0.3% (+3.9% y/y) following no change.

Sales of nondiscretionary items also were mixed last month. Food & beverages store sales held steady (4.9% y/y) after a 0.8% rise. Health & personal care product store sales increased 0.5% (5.4% y/y) after a 0.3% improvement.

Restaurant & drinking establishment sales gained 0.2% (10.1% y/y) after three months of strong increase.

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

Retail Spending (% chg) Aug Jul Jun Aug Y/Y 2017 2016 2015
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.1 0.7 0.2 6.6 4.3 3.1 2.6
  Excluding Autos 0.3 0.9 0.3 7.3 4.3 2.7 1.4
Retail Sales 0.1 0.5 0.1 6.2 4.5 2.8 1.9
  Motor Vehicle & Parts -0.8 -0.1 -0.1 4.0 4.3 4.6 7.2
 Retail Less Autos 0.3 0.7 0.1 6.8 4.5 2.2 0.4
  Gasoline Stations 1.7 0.8 0.6 20.3 8.8 -5.7 -17.6
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 0.2 1.6 1.7 10.1 2.7 5.6 8.2
 
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