Haver Analytics
Haver Analytics
| Nov 15 2023

U.S. Retail Sales Ease in October; Nonauto Sales Edge Higher

  • Motor vehicle sales decline.
  • Sales of core goods slow.
  • Gasoline sales fall with lower prices.

Consumer spending last month felt the twin pressures of higher prices and lackluster income growth. Retail sales slipped 0.1% (+2.5% y/y) during October following a 0.9% September rise, revised from 0.7%. It was the first decline in seven months. The 0.7% August rise was revised from 0.8%. A 0.2% October decline had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Sales excluding motor vehicles & parts improved 0.1% last month (2.3% y/y) after increasing 0.8% in each of the prior three months. No change in October sales had been expected.

Showing modest improvement, sales in the retail group, which excludes autos, building materials, gasoline & restaurants, rose 0.2% last month (3.5% y/y) following a 0.7% September increase, revised from 0.6%. The August gain was revised to 0.1% from 0.2%.

Last month’s overall sales decline was led by a 2.0% drop (-11.8% y/y) in furniture & home furnishing store sales which came after a 0.6% September weakening. It was followed by a 1.0% falloff (+3.3% y/y) in motor vehicle sales which reversed a 1.1% September increase. The October decline compares to a 0.4% weakening (+6.2% y/y) in unit sales of autos & light trucks. Gasoline service station sales fell 0.3% (-7.5% y/y) with lower prices after rising 1.0% in September. General merchandise store sales eased 0.2% (+1.9% y/y) after gaining 0.4%. Within that category, department store sales fell 1.2% (-4.1% y/y) after slipping 0.1% in September. Sales of sporting goods, hobby shop, book & music stores weakened 0.8% (-3.8% y/y) after edging 0.1% higher in September. Building materials & garden equipment fell 0.3% in October (-5.6% y/y), the same as in the prior month.

Working higher, sales of electronics & appliance stores gained 0.6% in October (0.9% y/y) after rising 0.4% in September. Nonstore retail sales rose 0.2% (7.6% y/y) after surging 1.4% in September. Clothing & accessory store sales held steady (+0.8% y/y) after weakening 0.8% in the prior month.

In the nondiscretionary sales categories, sales were firm. Health & personal care store sales rose surged 1.1% (9.6% y/y) last month after a 0.5% September rise. Food & beverage store sales gained 0.6% in October (1.0% y/y) after improving 0.2% in September.

Consumer spending at restaurants & drinking places rose 0.3% last month (8.6% y/y) after strengthening 1.6% in September.

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

Recent and Near-Term Fiscal Policy: Headwind or Tailwind? from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is available here.

  • Prior to joining Haver Analytics in 2000, Mr. Moeller worked as the Economist at Chancellor Capital Management from 1985 to 1999. There, he developed comprehensive economic forecasts and interpreted economic data for equity and fixed income portfolio managers. Also at Chancellor, Mr. Moeller worked as an equity analyst and was responsible for researching and rating companies in the economically sensitive automobile and housing industries for investment in Chancellor’s equity portfolio.   Prior to joining Chancellor, Mr. Moeller was an Economist at Citibank from 1979 to 1984.   He also analyzed pricing behavior in the metals industry for the Council on Wage and Price Stability in Washington, D.C.   In 1999, Mr. Moeller received the award for most accurate forecast from the Forecasters' Club of New York. From 1990 to 1992 he was President of the New York Association for Business Economists.   Mr. Moeller earned an M.B.A. in Finance from Fordham University, where he graduated in 1987. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from George Washington University.

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