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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Rise Steadily
by Tom Moeller  February 14, 2020

Total retail sales including food service establishments increased 0.3% (4.4% y/y) during January following a 0.2% December gain, revised from 0.3%. The increase matched expectations in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Retail sales excluding motor vehicles & parts also rose an expected 0.3% (4.0% y/y) last month after a 0.6% increase in December, revised from 0.7%.

Retail sales alone edged 0.1% higher (4.0% y/y) following no change last month, which was revised from 0.4%. A 3.1% decline (0.0% y/y) in apparel store sales weakened the result as it followed December's 2.7% jump. A 2.1% (-1.3% y/y) rise in building materials store sales offset most of this weakening. Motor vehicles purchases improved 0.2% (5.7% y/y) as unit sales of light vehicles (reported earlier this month) rose 1.1%. Nonstore retail sales increased 0.3% (8.4% y/y) after four straight months of decline. General merchandise store sales rose 0.5% (2.1% y/y), up for the fourth straight month. Furniture & home furnishings store sales improved 0.6% (1.8% y/y) following a 1.6% decline, but electronics & appliance store sales eased 0.5% (-3.2% y/y), and reversed December's rise. Sporting goods, hobby, book & music store sales gained 0.1% (-1.8% y/y) following little change.

Gasoline & service station sales eased 0.5% (+10.4% y/y) as gasoline prices declined.

In the nondiscretionary sales categories, food & grocery store sales improved 0.2% (2.3% y/y) after rising 0.5% in December. Sales of health & personal care product stores offset this gain with a 0.4% decline (-1.9% y/y), and they've been declining steadily since the middle of last year.

Restaurant sales increased 1.2% (7.4% y/y), the same as in December, which was revised from 0.2%.

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

Retail Spending (% chg) Jan Dec Nov Jan Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.3 0.2 0.2 4.4 3.5 4.8 4.6
  Excluding Autos 0.3 0.6 -0.2 4.0 3.4 5.5 5.0
Retail Sales 0.1 0.0 0.3 4.0 3.4 4.6 4.5
 Retail Less Autos 0.1 0.5 -0.1 3.4 3.2 5.3 4.8
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 0.2 -1.7 1.6 5.7 4.0 2.3 3.4
  Gasoline Service Stations -0.5 1.7 0.6 10.4 0.4 12.6 8.9
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 1.2 1.2 -0.6 7.4 4.4 6.3 5.9
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