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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Increase Broadly; Less Is Spent on Gasoline
by Tom Moeller  February 12, 2016

The consumer reaped the benefit from lower gasoline prices last month and ramped up spending elsewhere. Retail sales gained 0.2% during January (3.4% y/y) following a 0.2% December rise, revised from -0.1%. A 0.1% uptick had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey.

Motor vehicle sales increased 0.6% (6.9% y/y), about the same as during the prior two months. The rise reflected a 1.4% increase in unit motor vehicle purchases. Retail sales excluding autos edged 0.1% higher (2.5% y/y), the same as in December. No change had been expected. Lower prices prompted a 3.1% decline (-8.1% y/y) in sales at gasoline service stations. Dining out also was less in vogue as restaurant sales fell 0.5% (+6.1% y/y). Finally, warm weather prompted a 0.6% increase (5.0% y/y) in building materials. Retail spending excluding these categories increased 0.6% (3.1% y/y). It recouped a 0.3% December decline and served as the largest increase since May.

Sales at nonstore retailers led the improvement with a 1.6% rise (8.7% y/y) after a 0.1% dip. These sales account for 10.6% of the total, up from 7.4% ten years ago. General merchandise store sales posted a 0.8% increase (0.9% y/y) following a 0.9% shortfall. Clothing & accessory store sales gained 0.2% (2.2% y/y) after a 0.1% dip. Electronics & appliance store sales improved 0.1% (-4.2% y/y) following three months of sharp decline. To the downside by 2.1% (+9.1% y/y) were sporting goods, hobby, book & music store sales after a 1.9% rise. Furniture & home furnishing store sales also were off 0.5% (+4.0% y/y) after a 0.7% gain.

Food & beverage store sales increased 0.5% (2.0% y/y) following a 0.3% easing. Health & personal care store sales were little changed (3.5% y/y) for the second straight month.

The retail sales figures are available in Haver's USECON database. The Action Economics figures are in the AS1REPNA database.

The Household Debt and Credit Report is the topic of today's comments by William C. Dudley, President & CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and they can be found here.

Retail Spending (%) Jan Dec Nov Jan Y/Y 2015 2014 2013
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.2 0.2 0.3 3.4 2.1 3.9 3.7
  Excluding Autos 0.1 0.1 0.3 2.5 0.9 3.1 2.7
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline, Building Supplies & Food Services 0.6 -0.3 0.5 3.1 3.0 3.3 2.7
Retail Sales 0.3 0.0 0.3 3.1 1.4 3.7 3.8
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 0.6 0.5 0.6 6.9 7.0 7.5 8.3
 Retail Less Autos 0.2 -0.1 0.2 1.9 -0.2 2.6 2.6
  Gasoline Stations -3.1 -0.5 -2.0 -8.1 -19.4 -2.7 -0.7
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales -0.5 1.3 0.7 6.1 8.1 6.2 3.4
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