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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Increase Steadily
by Tom Moeller  January 16, 2020

Total retail sales including food service establishments increased 0.3% (5.8% y/y) during December following a 0.3% November gain, revised from 0.2%. The increase matched expectations in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Retail sales excluding motor vehicles & parts rebounded 0.7% (6.3% y/y) last month after little change in November. Expectations had been for a 0.5% improvement.

Retail sales alone rose 0.4% (6.0% y/y) in December for the third straight month. A 1.3% decline (+4.1% y/y) in motor vehicles purchases held back the rise in total retail sales. The decline compared to a 1.9% drop in unit vehicle sales. Offsetting this decline was a 1.6% gain (0.1% y/y) in apparel sales and a 0.6% rise (2.2% y/y) in general merchandise store sales. Electronics & appliance store sales also rose 0.6% (-0.7% y/y) and furniture & home furnishings store sales edged 0.1% higher (3.2% y/y). Sales of nonstore retailers rose 0.2% (19.2% y/y) and sporting goods & hobby shop store sales gained 0.9% (1.8% y/y).

Gasoline & service station sales increased 2.8% (11.3% y/y) as seasonally adjusted gasoline prices rose.

In the nondiscretionary sales categories, food & grocery store sales gained 0.4% (3.7% y/y) for a second month. Sales of health & personal care product stores also rose 0.4% (+3.8% y/y).

Restaurant sales increased 0.2% (4.9% y/y) following a 0.6% decline.

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

Retail Spending (% chg) Dec Nov Oct Dec Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.3 0.3 0.3 5.8 3.6 4.8 4.2
  Excluding Autos 0.7 -0.0 0.2 6.3 3.4 5.5 5.0
Retail Sales 0.4 0.4 0.4 6.0 3.5 4.6 4.5
 Retail Less Autos 0.8 0.1 0.2 6.5 3.3 5.3 4.8
  Motor Vehicle & Parts -1.3 1.5 1.1 4.1 4.0 2.3 3.4
  Gasoline Service Stations 2.8 1.0 2.0 11.3 0.5 12.6 8.9
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 0.2 -0.6 -0.1 4.9 4.3 6.3 5.9
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