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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Disappoint
by Tom Moeller  December 13, 2019

Total retail sales increased 0.2% (3.3% y/y) during November following a 0.4% October gain, revised from 0.3%. A 0.5% November rise had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Retail sales excluding motor vehicles & parts edged 0.1% higher (3.0% y/y) last month after rising 0.3% in October. Expectations had been for a 0.4% improvement.

A 0.6% decline (-3.3% y/y) in apparel store sales held back the overall sales increase. It was the third decline in the last four months. Sporting goods, hobby, book & music shop store sales also were weak and fell 0.5% (+3.4% y/y) following a 0.1% dip. Finally, sales at building & garden equipment stores held steady (0.4% y/y) after falling in all but one of the prior six months. Offsetting these weaknesses, sales via the internet rose 0.8% (11.5% y/y) after a 0.6 rise. Electronics & appliance store sales also were firm and rose 0.7% (-1.5% y/y) after falling 0.8% in October. Motor vehicle & parts dealerships sales improved 0.5% during November (4.9% y/y) after increasing 1.0% in October. General merchandise store sales rose 0.1% (-0.1% y/y) but department store sales fell 0.6% (-7.2% y/y), down in most every month this year. Sales at furniture & home furnishing stores also rose 0.1% (1.9% y/y) after a 0.7% decline.

Gasoline service station sales improved 0.7% (0.5% y/y) after a 1.7% rise, even though gasoline prices fell 0.7% last month.

Health & personal care store sales posted a 1.1% decline (-0.4 y/y) after rising 0.5% in October. Food & beverage store sales improved  0.3% (2.9% y/y) following a 0.2% rise.

Eating out became less in vogue of late as food & drinking establishment sales fell 0.3% (+5.1% y/y) after edging 0.1% lower in October.

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

Retail Spending (% chg) Nov Oct Sep Nov Y/Y 2018 2017 2016
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.2 0.4 -0.4 3.3 4.9 4.2 3.0
  Excluding Autos 0.1 0.3 -0.2 3.0 5.5 4.6 2.6
Retail Sales 0.3 0.5 -0.6 3.1 4.7 4.0 2.7
 Retail Less Autos 0.2 0.4 -0.4 2.6 5.3 4.4 2.1
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 0.5 1.0 -1.1 4.9 2.6 2.8 4.4
  Gasoline Stations 0.7 1.7 -0.1 0.5 12.9 8.2 -5.7
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales -0.3 -0.1 0.8 5.1 6.4 5.5 5.5
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