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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Hold Steady in July; Nonauto Sales Rise
by Tom Moeller  August 17, 2022

• Sales post weakest result since December.

• Lower auto & gasoline sales hold back total.

• Nonauto sales generally improve.

Total retail sales remained unchanged during July (10.3% y/y) after increasing 0.8% during June, revised from 1.0%. May's result was revised to 0.4% from -0.1%. A 0.2% increase was expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Excluding motor vehicles & parts, retail sales improved 0.4% (12.3% y/y) after a 0.9% June rise, revised from 1.0%. May's sales rose 1.3%, revised from 0.6%. No change in nonauto sales had been expected in July.

Sales of motor vehicles & parts declined 1.6% in July (+2.1% y/y) following a 0.5% June increase. This compares to a 2.1% gain (-8.8% y/y) in unit sales of motor vehicles. Gasoline service station sales declined 1.8% (+39.9% y/y) as prices fell, following two straight months of strong increase. Excluding autos & gasoline, retail sales rose 0.7% (9.3% y/y), the same as in June.

In the retail control group, which excludes autos, gas stations, building materials & food services, sales increased 0.8% (8.7% y/y) in July after a 0.7% June rise and a 0.8% May increase. These sales are used in the construction of personal consumption expenditures in NIPA accounts.

Sales gains were mixed last month across product categories. Nonstore retail sales surged 2.7% (20.2% y/y), the fourth straight month of strong increase. Building materials store sales improved 1.5% (10.1% y/y) after easing 0.5% in June. Electronics & appliance store sales rose 0.4% (-9.9% y/y) after a 0.1% easing. Furniture & home furnishings store sales rose 0.2% (2.1% y/y) after two straight months of decline. Sporting goods & hobby shop store sales edged 0.1% higher (3.9% y/y) after rising 0.6% in June. Elsewhere, sales declined during July. Clothing & accessory store sales fell 0.6% last month (+2.3% y/y) after a 0.9% June increase. General merchandise store sales weakened 0.7% in July (0.5% y/y), the third decline in four months.

In the nondiscretionary sales categories, food & beverage store sales rose 0.2% (8.4% y/y) in July after a 0.9% increase in June. Health & personal care store sales increased 0.4% (3.4% y/y) following a 1.5% June gain.

Consumers' interest in dining out diminished last month. Restaurant & drinking place sales rose 0.1% (11.6% y/y) in July after a 0.8% increase in June.

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

The minutes to the latest FOMC meeting can be found here.

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