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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Disappoint in November
by Tom Moeller  December 15, 2021

• Auto sales ease.

• Online sales hold steady.

• Gasoline sales strengthen with higher prices.

Total retail sales including food service and drinking establishments increased 0.3% (18.2% y/y) during November following a 1.8% October rise, revised from 1.7%. A 0.8% rise in November sales had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. The gain in September sales was revised to 0.7% from 0.8% reported last month. Sales excluding motor vehicles and parts also rose 0.3% in November (19.5% y/y) following a 1.8% October gain, revised from 1.7%. A 0.9% increase had been expected. The gain in nonauto sales in September sales was revised to 0.6% from 0.7%.

Sales in the retail control group, which excludes autos, gas stations, building materials and food services, eased 0.1% last month (+13.7% y/y) following a 1.8% October rise, revised from 1.6%.

Motor vehicle sales eased 0.1% (+13.4% y/y) in November after a 1.7% October increase. Unit motor vehicle sales increased eased 0.2% last month (-18.5% y/y) following a 6.0% increase.

Retail purchases via the internet were unchanged (12.1% y/y) last month following a 4.1% strengthening. Furniture & home furnishing store sales also held steady in November (16.3% y/y) after rising 2.8% in October. Electronics & appliance store sales declined 4.6% in November (16.8% y/y) after rising 3.1% in the prior month. General merchandise store sales fell 1.2% last month (+14.2% y/y) and reversed most of the prior month's gain. Within that category, department store sales weakened 5.4% (+27.6% y/y) following a 2.5% rise. To the upside, sporting goods, hobby and book store sales were firm as a 1.3% rise (20.0% y/y) added to strength in the prior two months. Apparel store sales rose 0.5% last month (34.8% y/y) after a 0.2% rise.

Gasoline service station sales increased 1.7% (52.3% y/y) following a 3.7% October increase as gas prices continued to rise. The gain accompanied a 4.9% surge in gasoline prices (seasonally adjusted by Haver) which followed an 8.9% increase. Building materials & garden equipment sales rose 0.7% last month (9.3% y/y) after a 2.5% October increase.

In the nondiscretionary sales categories, grocery & beverage store sales increased 1.3% during November (8.6% y/y) after rising 1.0% in October. Health & personal care store sales declined 0.6% (+7.2% y/y), the third consecutive month of decline.

Sales at restaurants & drinking establishments rose 1.0% last month (37.4% y/y) after a 0.3% October increase. It was the largest increase since July.

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 2020 2019 2018
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.3 1.8 0.7 18.2 0.2 3.3 4.4
  Excluding Autos 0.3 1.8 0.6 19.5 0.3 3.4 5.1
Retail Sales 0.2 2.0 0.7 16.1 3.1 3.0 4.2
 Retail Less Autos 0.2 2.1 0.6 16.9 3.9 3.0 5.0
  Motor Vehicle & Parts -0.1 1.7 1.2 13.4 0.2 2.9 1.4
  Food & Beverage Stores  1.3 1.0 0.5 8.6 11.5 3.1 2.9
  Gasoline Service Stations 1.7 3.7 3.5 52.3 -15.9 -1.7 9.2
Food Service & Drinking Places 1.0 0.3 0.9 37.4 -19.6 5.6 5.7
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