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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Firm Broadly; Revisions Show Improvement
by Tom Moeller  June 14, 2019

Total retail sales increased 0.5% (3.2% y/y) during May following a 0.3% April increase, revised from a 0.2% slip reported initially. A 0.6% gain had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Retail sales excluding motor vehicles and parts rose 0.5% (3.2% y/y), the same as during April, revised from 0.1%. A 0.4% gain had been expected.

Last month, sales of motor vehicle & parts increased 0.7% (3.1% y/y) after a 0.5% fall during April. This compared to a 6.2% gain in unit sales of motor vehicles during May.

A measure of the underlying pace of retail spending is nonauto sales growth excluding gasoline and building materials. These sales rose 0.5% (3.4% y/y) after a 0.4% rise, revised from unchanged.

Sales strength was broad-based last month. Purchases via the internet surged 1.4% (11.4% y/y), following a 0.5% rise. Purchases at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores rose 1.1% (-4.2% y/y) and repeated April's strength. Sales of electronics & appliance store also rose 1.1% (-2.4% y/y) and reversed April's 1.3% decline. General merchandise store sales increased 0.7% (3.3% y/y), extending the strength during the prior two months. Elsewhere, goods spending was tepid. Furniture & home furnishings store sales gained 0.1% (0.6% y/y) following a 0.6% rise. Sales of building materials and garden equipment were little changed (0.2% y/y) following a 0.6% decline. Clothing & accessory store sales also held steady (-2.3% y/y)  after a 0.2% dip. 

Gasoline service station sales improved 0.3% (3.2% y/y) as prices continued to increase.

Sales of nondiscretionary items were mixed last month. Food & beverage store sales slipped 0.1% (+1.6% y/y) after a 0.2% rise. Health & personal care product store sales improved 0.6% (3.4% y/y) following a 0.2% increase.

Restaurant & drinking establishment sales  increased 0.7% (3.7% y/y) after a 0.3% 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) May Apr Mar May Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.5 0.3 1.8 3.2 4.9 4.7 2.9
  Excluding Autos 0.5 0.5 1.4 3.2 5.5 4.7 2.5
Retail Sales 0.5 0.3 1.9 3.1 4.7 5.0 2.5
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 0.7 -0.5 3.2 3.1 2.7 4.9 4.3
 Retail Less Autos 0.5 0.5 1.5 3.1 5.4 5.0 2.0
  Gasoline Stations 0.3 2.1 3.6 3.2 12.9 9.4 -5.8
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 0.7 0.3 0.9 3s.7 6.1 3.1 5.2
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