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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Strengthen
by Tom Moeller  October 13, 2017

Total retail sales and spending at restaurants increased 1.6% (4.1% y/y) during September. That followed a 0.1% August dip and a 0.5% July rise, both of which were revised up slightly versus last month's report. A 1.5% increase had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Leading last month's strength was a 3.6% increase (4.1% y/y) in motor vehicle & parts sales. That compared to a 15.0% rise (4.8% y/y) in unit motor vehicle sales. Retail sales excluding autos improved 1.0% (4.0% y/y) following a 0.5% rise, revised from 0.2%. A 0.8% gain had been expected.

Spending on nonauto discretionary items was mixed last month. Gasoline service station sales jumped 5.8% (10.7% y/y) with higher prices. With rebuilding following Hurricane Harvey, building materials and garden equipment store increased 2.1% (7.7% y/y) following a 0.6% rise. Purchases at apparel stores gained 0.4% (1.5% y/y) after a 0.6% drop. Sales at nonstore retailers increased 0.5% (5.8% y/y) following declines in two of the prior three months. General merchandise store sales improved 0.3% (4.7% y/y) following a 0.4% rise. To the downside were electronics & appliance store sales which fell 1.1% (-5.3% y/y), the fifth consecutive month of decline. Sales at furniture & home furnishings stores were off 0.4% (+1.4% y/y), the second decline in three months. Sporting goods & hobby shop store sales slipped 0.2% (-4.1% y/y), down for the sixth month in the last seven.

In the nondiscretionary sector, food & beverage store sales rose 0.8% (3.4% y/y) following two months of 0.5% increase. Health & personal care store sales declined 0.4% (-0.6% y/y) after a 0.5% rise.

Restaurant sales improved 0.8% (3.3% y/y) following a 0.2% increase.

The retail sales data can be found in Haver's USECON database. The Action Economics forecast expectations are included in the AS1REPNA database.

Retail Spending (%) Sep Aug Jul Sep Y/Y 2016 2015 2014
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 1.6 -0.1 0.5 4.1 3.2 2.6 4.3
  Excluding Autos 1.0 0.5 0.5 4.0 3.0 1.4 3.8
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.6 0.1 0.7 3.2 3.9 4.2 4.6
Retail Sales 1.7 -0.1 0.5 4.2 2.9 1.9 4.1
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 3.6 -2.1 0.3 4.1 4.1 7.3 6.4
 Retail Less Autos 1.1 0.5 0.6 4.2 2.5 0.4 3.4
  Gasoline Stations 5.8 4.1 -0.5 10.7 -5.7 -17.6 -2.0
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 0.8 0.2 0.1 3.3 5.9 8.1 6.1
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