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Economy in Brief

Chain Store Sales Flop
by Tom Moeller March 30, 2004

Chain store sales dropped 1.9% last week according to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)-UBS survey.The decline reversed all of the weekly gains during the prior two months.

The latest decline left sales so far in March 0.1% below the February average.

The ICSC-UBS retail chain-store sales index is constructed using the same-store sales reported by 78 stores of seven retailers: Dayton Hudson, Federated, Kmart, May, J.C. Penney, Sears and Wal-Mart.

During the last ten years there has been a 51% correlation between the year-to-year percent change in the ICSC-UBS measure of chain store sales and consumer sentiment.

ICSC-UBS (SA, 1977=100) 03/27/04 03/20/04 Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Total Weekly Retail Chain Store Sales 431.0 439.5 6.6% 2.9% 3.6% 2.1%
Consumer Confidence Remained Depressed
by Tom Moeller March 30, 2004

The Conference Board’s Index of Consumer Confidence for March slipped 0.2% to 88.3 versus February's level, revised up slightly to 88.5 from 87.3 .

In contrast, the March reading of Consumer Sentiment from the University of Michigan rose 1.5% from February. The drop in Confidence was more moderate than Consensus expectations for a decline to 86.0.

During the last ten years there has been a 67% correlation between the level of consumer confidence and the y/y % change in real PCE.

The present situation reading rose 1.0% to 84.1 (+37.0% y/y) and prior month's levels were revised up sharply. The index of consumer expectations fell by 1.0% (+48.2% y/y), the third consecutive monthly decline, and prior month's levels were revised down.

Jobs were viewed as hard to get by 30.0% of respondents, an increase from prior month's levels which were revised down. The low for this series was in 2000 when 11.2% of respondents viewed jobs as hard to get.

Expectations for business conditions in six months held steady in March but only 19.3% of respondents expected conditions to improve, the lowest since last April.

The Conference Board’s survey isconducted by a mailed questionnaire to 5,000 households and about 3,500 typically respond.

Conference Board Mar Feb Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Consumer Confidence 88.3 88.5 43.8% 79.8 96.6 106.6
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