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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Rise Moderately
by Tom Moeller  May 15, 2018

Total retail sales increased 0.3% (4.7% y/y) during April following a 0.8% March gain, revised from 0.6%. The rise matched expectations in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales improved 0.3% (4.8% y/y) after a 0.4% March gain, revised from 0.2%. A 0.5% increase had been expected.

Clothing & accessory store sales jumped 1.4% (4.1% y/y), rebounding after a 0.2% decline. Nonstore retailers posted a 0.6% rise (9.6% y/y) in sales after two monthly increases of roughly 1.0%. Furniture & home furnishing store sales increased 0.8% (6.1% y/y) after strengthening 1.4%. Electronics & appliance store sales eased, however, by 0.1% (+1.7% y/y) following a 0.7% gain. Building materials, and garden equipment store sales rose 0.4% (4.4% y/y) after a 1.4% decline. General merchandise store sales improved 0.3% (2.5% y/y) following a 0.4% rise. Sales of motor vehicles & parts ticked 0.1% higher (4.3% y/y) on the heels of a 2.1% rise. The increase compared to a 1.8% decline in unit vehicle sales reported earlier this month. To the downside were sporting goods, hobby, book & music store purchases which slipped 0.1% (-1.1% y/y), the fifth decline in six months.

Purchases at gasoline service stations increased 0.8% (11.7% y/y) as the pump price of gasoline rose 7.5% m/m.

Sales of nondiscretionary items were mixed last month. Health & personal care store sales fell 0.4% (-0.4% y/y) after a 1.1% jump. Food & beverage store sales improved 0.4% (3.4% y/y), the strongest rise in six months.

Individuals took a break from eating out last month. Food service & drinking establishment sales fell 0.3% (+3.8% y/y) after a 1.2% increase. It was the first meaningful decline since February of last year.

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

Retail Spending (% chg) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y 2017 2016 2015
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.3 0.8 0.0 4.7 4.2 3.2 2.6
  Excluding Autos 0.3 0.4 0.4 4.8 4.2 3.0 1.4
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.3 0.4 0.3 3.9 3.6 3.9 4.2
Retail Sales 0.4 0.7 -0.0 4.8 4.4 2.9 1.9
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 0.1 2.1 -1.2 4.3 4.1 4.1 7.3
 Retail Less Autos 0.5 0.3 0.3 5.0 4.5 2.5 0.4
  Gasoline Stations 0.8 0.3 0.5 11.7 8.9 -5.7 -17.6
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales -0.3 1.2 0.4 3.8 2.8 5.9 8.1
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