Haver Analytics
Haver Analytics
| May 15 2024

U.S. Retail Sales Disappoint in April, Unexpectedly Holding Steady

  • +0.02% (+3.0% y/y) in Apr.; downward revisions for Mar. and Feb.
  • Ex-auto sales up for the fourth month in five.
  • Auto sales down for the third month in four.
  • Gasoline sales post the largest of three straight m/m increases.
  • Nonstore retail sales fall for the third time in four months.

Total retail sales were virtually unchanged m/m (3.0% y/y) in April after downwardly revised increases of 0.6% in March (+0.7% reported on Apr. 23 & 15) and 0.7% in February (+1.0% reported on Apr. 23 & +0.9% reported on Apr. 15), according to the Census Bureau. The April no change was the worst m/m reading since January’s 1.1% drop (+0.3% y/y). A 0.4% m/m April rise had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey.

Excluding motor vehicles & parts, retail sales rose 0.2% (3.6% y/y) in April, the fourth m/m rise in five months, on top of a 0.9% gain in March. A 0.3% m/m April increase had been expected. Sales of motor vehicles & parts fell 0.8% (+0.8% y/y), the third m/m fall in four months, following a 0.3% March decline.

Sales in the retail control group, which excludes autos, building materials, gasoline stations, and food services, fell 0.3% (+3.5% y/y) in April following a 1.0% rise in March and no change in February. These sales are used in the construction of personal consumption expenditures in NIPA accounts. Nonauto sales excluding gasoline & building materials declined 0.2% (+3.9% y/y) after a 0.8% March increase and no change in February.

Sales by category were mixed in April. Gasoline station sales jumped 3.1% (4.0% y/y) in April, the biggest of three consecutive m/m gains, after a 2.1% rise in March. Clothing & accessory store sales rebounded 1.6% (2.7% y/y) vs. a 2.0% March decline. Electronics & appliance store sales rose 1.5% (0.8% y/y), the third m/m rise in four months, after a 3.1% March drop. Building materials & garden equipment store sales grew 0.5% (-1.0% y/y), the fourth m/m gain in five months, on top of a 0.4% March increase.

To the downside, nonstore retail sales fell 1.2% (+7.5% y/y) in April, the third m/m fall in four months, after a 2.5% rebound in March. Sporting goods, hobby shop, book & music store sales decreased 0.9% (-4.7% y/y) following a 1.3% March drop and a 0.7% February rise. Furniture & home furnishing store sales slid 0.5% (-8.4% y/y), the fourth m/m slide in five months, after a 2.3% March decline. Miscellaneous store sales dropped 0.4% (+6.8% y/y) vs. three successive m/m rises. General merchandise store sales fell 0.3% (+3.7% y/y), the first m/m fall since November, following a 1.3% March gain (however, within this grouping, department store sales grew 0.5% (-1.2% y/y), the first m/m gain since January).

In the nondiscretionary sales categories, food & beverage store sales rose 0.8% (2.2% y/y) in April, the largest of three straight m/m rises, after a 0.5% increase in March. Health & personal care store sales, however, fell 0.6% (-0.3% y/y), the fifth m/m fall in six months, following a 0.2% March rebound.

Consumers continued to eat out despite still-high inflation (April CPI +0.3% m/m, +3.4% y/y). Restaurant & drinking place sales rose 0.2% (5.5% y/y) in April following a 0.1% March downtick and a string of meaningful increases during the March 2023 to November 2023 period.

Retail Sales data can be found in Haver's USECON database. The expectations figures are from the Action Economics Forecast Survey in AS1REPNA.

  • Winnie Tapasanun has been working for Haver Analytics since 2013. She has ~20 years of working in the financial services industry. As Vice President and Economic Analyst at Globicus International, Inc., a New York-based company specializing in macroeconomics and financial markets, Winnie oversaw the company’s business operations, managed financial and economic data, and wrote daily reports on macroeconomics and financial markets. Prior to working at Globicus, she was Investment Promotion Officer at the New York Office of the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) where she wrote monthly reports on the U.S. economic outlook, wrote reports on the outlook of key U.S. industries, and assisted investors on doing business and investment in Thailand. Prior to joining the BOI, she was Adjunct Professor teaching International Political Economy/International Relations at the City College of New York. Prior to her teaching experience at the CCNY, Winnie successfully completed internships at the United Nations.   Winnie holds an MA Degree from Long Island University, New York. She also did graduate studies at Columbia University in the City of New York and doctoral requirements at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her areas of specialization are international political economy, macroeconomics, financial markets, political economy, international relations, and business development/business strategy. Her regional specialization includes, but not limited to, Southeast Asia and East Asia.   Winnie is bilingual in English and Thai with competency in French. She loves to travel (~30 countries) to better understand each country’s unique economy, fascinating culture and people as well as the global economy as a whole.

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