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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Post Another Firm Increase
by Tom Moeller  November 15, 2016

Total retail sales & spending at restaurants increased 0.8% during October (4.3% y/y) following a 1.0% September rise, revised from 0.6%. A 0.6% increase had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. The rise lifted three-month sales growth to 7.2%, its quickest pace since June.

Strength in spending was evident throughout the report. Sales of motor vehicle & parts increased 1.1% (5.4% y/y) after a 1.9% jump. This compared to a 1.5% rise in unit vehicle purchases. Excluding autos, retail sales gained 0.8% (4.0% y/y) after a 0.7% increase. A 0.5% rise had been expected. In the retail control group, which comprises nonauto purchases less gasoline, building materials & restaurants, sales increased 0.8% (4.0% y/y) after a 0.3% rise, revised from 0.1%.

Gasoline service station sales jumped 2.2% (0.8% y/y), strong for the second month with higher prices. Building materials & garden equipment buying gained 1.1% (6.5% y/y) following a 1.8% surge.

Nonstore retailer sales increased 1.5% (12.9% y/y), and continued prior months' strength. Sporting goods, hobby, book & music store sales improved 1.3% (1.7% y/y), about the same as in September. Apparel store sales increased 0.6% (2.3% y/y) following a 0.2% improvement. General merchandise store sales recovered 0.4% (-2.3% y/y) after declining in four of the prior five months. Electronics & appliance stores reported a 0.2% improvement (-4.0% y/y) after shortfalls during four consecutive months. Sales of furniture & home furnishing stores fell 0.9% (+1.7% y/y), the third decline in four months.

In the non-discretionary spending categories, food & beverage store sales improved 0.9% (3.7% y/y), the strongest rise in three months. Health & personal care store sales increased 0.8% (8.3% y/y) following a 0.1% uptick.

Eating out moderated as food service & drinking establishment sales declined 0.7% (+4.3% y/y), and reversed September's 0.7% gain.

Retail Spending (%) Oct Sep Aug Oct Y/Y 2015 2014 2013
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.8 1.0 -0.0 4.3 2.3 4.1 3.8
  Excluding Autos 0.8 0.7 -0.0 4.0 1.3 3.6 2.7
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline, Building Supplies & Food Services (Control Group) 0.8 0.3 0.1 4.0 3.3 4.0 2.9
Retail Sales 1.0 1.0 -0.1 4.3 1.6 3.9 3.8
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 1.1 1.9 0.0 5.4 6.6 6.4 8.3
 Retail Less Autos 1.0 0.7 -0.1 4.0 0.2 3.2 2.6
  Gasoline Stations 2.2 3.0 -1.4 0.8 -19.4 -2.4 -1.2
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales -0.7 0.7 0.5 4.3 8.1 6.1 3.7
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