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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Post Disappointing Increase
by Tom Moeller  October 15, 2018

Total retail sales improved 0.1% (4.7% y/y) during September following an unrevised 0.1% August gain. A 0.6% increase had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales eased 0.1% last month (+5.7% y/y) after a 0.2% rise, revised from 0.3%. A 0.4% increase had been expected. A measure of the underlying pace of retail spending is nonauto sales growth excluding gasoline and building materials. These sales increased 0.5% in September (4.9% y/y) after little change during the prior month.

Weakness in sales last month was most pronounced at restaurant & drinking establishments where purchases weakened 1.8% (+7.2% y/y) after a 0.3% gain.

Elsewhere, patterns amongst sales categories were mixed. Purchases at nonstore retailers strengthened 1.1% (11.4% y/y) after a 0.5% gain. Sales of furniture & home furnishings stores also improved 1.1% (4.3% y/y) and offset a 0.8% decline in the prior month. Electronics & appliance store sales increased 0.9% (5.8% y/y) after a 0.6% rise. Sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores sales rose 0.7% (-3.8% y/y) after five consecutive months of decline.

Posting lesser increases were apparel & accessory store sales which rose 0.5% (4.6% y/y) after a 2.8% decline. General merchandise store sales gained 0.3% (3.6% y/y) following a 0.1% uptick. Building materials & garden equipment store sales inched 0.1% higher (1.5% y/y) after a 0.8% increase. Moving lower by 0.8% (+11.4% y/y) were gasoline service station sales following a 1.1% rise.

Sales of nondiscretionary items were mixed last month. Food & beverages store sales gained 0.2% (2.9% y/y) after a 0.3% decline. Health & personal care product store sales declined 0.3% (+4.1% y/y) after a 0.5% rise.

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

Retail Spending (% chg) Sep Aug Jul Sep Y/Y 2017 2016 2015
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.1 0.1 0.6 4.7 4.3 3.1 2.6
  Excluding Autos -0.1 0.2 0.8 5.7 4.3 2.7 1.4
Retail Sales 0.4 0.0 0.5 4.4 4.5 2.8 1.9
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 0.8 -0.5 0.0 1.1 4.3 4.6 7.2
 Retail Less Autos 0.3 0.2 0.7 5.4 4.5 2.2 0.4
  Gasoline Stations -0.8 1.1 0.4 11.4 8.8 -5.7 -17.6
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales -1.8 0.3 1.2 7.2 2.7 5.6 8.2
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