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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Increase Driven by Autos & Gasoline
by Tom Moeller  January 13, 2017

Total retail sales & spending at restaurants increased 0.6% (4.4% y/y) during December following a 0.2% November rise, revised from 0.1%. October's increase also was revised higher to 0.7% from 0.6%. A 0.7% increase had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. During Q4'16, retail sales grew at a 6.8% annual rate, the quickest rise since Q2'14.

A 2.4% rise (7.4% y/y) in purchases of motor vehicles & parts followed a 0.2% decline in November. The gain compared to a 3.1% increase in unit sales of light vehicles. Excluding autos, retail sales increased 0.2% (3.8% y/y) following a 0.3% rise. A 0.5% increase had been expected. Sales at gasoline service stations also lifted retail spending last month. The 2.0% increase raised sales 7.4% y/y, but that followed little-change in November. Retail sales excluding both autos & gasoline remained steady (3.5% y/y) following a 0.3% rise.

In other discretionary spending categories, furniture store sales increased 0.5% (3.9% y/y) following no change, but electronics & appliance store sales fell 0.5% (-2.4% y/y) after a 0.1% rise. Clothing store sales remained steady (3.3% y/y) for a second straight month, while general merchandise store sales also declined 0.5% (-1.7% y/y) following a 0.1% uptick. Sporting goods store sales increased 0.2% (-3.1% y/y) following declines in four of the prior five months.

In the non-discretionary spending categories, health & personal care store sales increased 0.3% (5.3 y/y), the same as during the month prior. Food & beverage store sales declined 0.3% (+3.9% y/y) following no change.

Sales at food service & drinking places declined 0.8% (+5.1% y/y) after a 1.2% jump.

The retail sales data can be found in Haver's USECON database.

Retail Spending (%) Dec Nov Oct Dec Y/Y 2016 2015 2014
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.6 0.2 0.7 4.4 3.3 2.3 4.2
  Excluding Autos 0.2 0.3 0.6 3.8 3.1 1.2 3.7
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.0 0.3 0.4 3.5 4.2 4.2 4.6
Retail Sales 0.8 0.0 0.8 4.3 2.9 1.6 4.0
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 2.4 -0.2 0.8 7.4 3.8 6.5 6.5
 Retail Less Autos 0.3 0.1 0.8 3.6 2.6 0.2 3.3
  Gasoline Stations 2.0 -0.0 2.7 7.4 -6.3 -19.2 -2.3
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales -0.8 1.2 -0.4 5.1 6.0 8.1 6.1
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