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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Strengthen
by Tom Moeller  April 16, 2018

Total retail sales increased 0.6% (4.5% y/y) during March following an unrevised 0.1% slip in February. The gain was the first in four months. A 0.4% increase had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales improved an expected 0.2% (4.5% y/y) following an unrevised 0.2% rise.

Sales of discretionary items were mixed last month. Sales of motor vehicles & parts increased 2.0% (4.5% y/y) following four consecutive months of decline. The rise compared to a 4.5% increase in unit auto sales reported earlier this month. Sales of nonstore retailers improved 0.8% (9.7% y/y) after a 0.9% gain. Sales at furniture & home furnishing stores rose 0.7% (3.9% y/y) after a 0.4% rise. Electronics appliance store sales rose 0.5% (1.0% y/y) following a 1.0% fall. General merchandise store sales improved 0.3% (3.2% y/y) following a 0.4% gain. Countering these increases was a 0.6% decline (+5.3% y/y) in building materials & garden equipment store sales after a 2.0% rise. Sporting goods, hobby, book & music store purchases fell 1.8% (-3.3% y/y) following a 3.3% increase. Clothing & accessory store sales were off 0.8% (+1.8% y/y) following two months of improvement.

Gasoline service station sales eased 0.3% (+9.7 y/y) following a 0.1% uptick.

Sales of nondiscretionary items strengthened last month. Health & personal care store sales increased 1.4% (0.8% y/y) after four straight months of decline. Food & beverage store sales improved 0.2% (3.0% y/y), the same as in February.

Food service & drinking establishment sales improved 0.4% (3.1% y/y) for the second straight month.

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

Retail Spending (% chg) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y 2017 2016 2015
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.6 -0.1 -0.2 4.5 4.2 3.2 2.6
  Excluding Autos 0.2 0.2 0.1 4.5 4.2 3.0 1.4
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.3 0.2 -0.2 3.8 3.6 3.9 4.2
Retail Sales 0.6 -0.1 -0.2 4.7 4.4 2.9 1.9
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 2.0 -1.3 -0.9 4.5 4.1 4.1 7.3
 Retail Less Autos 0.2 0.2 0.1 4.7 4.5 2.5 0.4
  Gasoline Stations -0.3 0.1 2.0 9.7 8.9 -5.7 -17.6
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 0.4 0.4 -0.0 3.1 2.8 5.9 8.1
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