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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Spending Strengthens
by Tom Moeller  May 13, 2016

Total retail sales & spending at restaurants increased 1.3% (3.0% y/y) during April following a 0.3% decline, unrevised from the preliminary report. The rise compared to expectations for a 0.8% improvement in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. The figures reflect annual revisions published late last month.

Stronger sales of motor vehicles led spending as a 3.2% rise (3.1% y/y) recouped March's 3.2% decline. The increase compares to a 5.1% increase in unit auto sales which recovered the prior month's 5.5% drop. Excluding autos, total retail spending increased 0.8% (3.0% y/y) which built on gains of 0.4% and 0.2% in the prior two months. A 0.4% rise had been expected.

Gasoline service station sales rose 2.2% (-9.6% y/y) following a 3.1% increase as prices rose. Building material store sales fell 1.0% (+8.2% y/y) and reversed two months of increase. Purchases at restaurants improved 0.3% (5.2% y/y) following a 0.4% fall.

Spending in the retail control group, which excludes autos, gasoline, building materials and restaurants increased 0.9% (3.6% y/y). That also was improved from 0.2% and 0.4% increases in the prior two months.

Within the discretionary spending categories, sales of nonstore retailers jumped 2.1% (10.2% y/y), the strongest rise this year. Clothing & accessory store sales increased 1.0% (1.3% y/y) and made up a 0.8% decline. Furniture & home furnishings spending rose 0.7% (3.6% y/y) following a 0.2% rise. Purchases at electronics & appliance stores improved 0.5% (-2.0% y/y), about the same as one month earlier. Sporting goods store sales gained 0.2% (4.2%), the same as in March. Showing a slight decline were general merchandise store sales (0.5% y/y), and they're down slightly versus yearend.

In the non-discretionary spending categories, health & personal care store sales increased 0.9% (8.1% y/y) following two months of even stronger gain. Food & beverage store sales also increased 0.9% (1.9% y/y) after a 0.5% decline.

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

Retail Spending (%) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y 2015 2014 2013
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 1.3 -0.3 0.3 3.0 2.3 4.1 3.8
  Excluding Autos 0.8 0.4 0.2 3.0 1.2 3.6 2.7
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline, Building Supplies & Food Services (Control Group) 0.9 0.2 0.4 3.6 3.3 4.0 2.9
Retail Sales 1.4 -0.3 0.1 2.7 1.6 3.9 3.8
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 3.2 -3.2 0.7 3.1  6.5 6.4 8.3
 Retail Less Autos 0.8 0.6 -0.1 2.6 0.2 3.2 2.6
  Gasoline Stations 2.2 3.1 -5.2 -9.6 -19.4 -2.4 -1.2
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 0.3 -0.4 1.9 5.2 8.0 6.1 3.7
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