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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Spending Lackluster
by Tom Moeller September 14, 2004

Retail sales fell 0.3% last month, about as expected, following a 0.8% gain in July that was little revised.

Excluding motor vehicles & parts dealers sales rose 0.2% after a little revised 0.3% gain in July. Consensus expectations had been for a 0.2% increase.

A lackluster tone to retail spending last month was emphasized by declines in discretionary spending. Clothing and accessory store sales fell 1.4% (+2.4% y/y), the fourth weak month in the last five.Sales at general merchandise stores slipped 0.4% (+3.8% y/y) after a downwardly revised 0.8% gain in July. Sales of furniture/home furnishings & electronics/appliances fell 0.4% (+5.9% y/y) although that followed upwardly revised gains of 1.2% and 1.8% in July and June.

Sales at gasoline service stations rose 0.3% (15.8% y/y) even though gasoline prices dropped 1.7% m/m in August0. So far in September gasoline prices are down another 1.6% to an average $1.85/gal.

  Aug July Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Retail Sales & Food Services -0.3% 0.8% 4.9% 5.4% 2.5% 3.1%
  Excluding Autos 0.2% 0.3% 7.0% 5.2% 3.2% 3.1%
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