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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Strengthen
by Tom Moeller  June 14, 2018

Consumers were in a shopping mood last month. Total retail sales increased 0.8% (5.9% y/y) during May following a 0.4% April gain, revised from 0.3%. It was the strongest monthly increase since November. A 0.4% rise had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales rose 0.9% (6.4% y/y) after a 0.4% increase, revised from 0.3%. It also was the firmest gain in six months. A 0.5% rise had been expected.

A 2.4% improvement (5.2% y/y) in building materials & garden equipment store sales led the increase as it followed a 1.8% gain. Clothing & accessory store sales also were strong and jumped 1.3% (5.9% y/y), about as they did in April. Purchases at general merchandise stores gained 1.2% (5.0% y/y ) after a 0.3% decline. Furniture & home furnishing store sales increased 0.8% (6.1% y/y) after strengthening 1.4%. Nonstore retailers posted a 0.6% rise (9.6% y/y) in sales after two monthly increases of roughly 1.0%. Sales of motor vehicles & parts rose 0.5% (4.0% y/y) on the heels of a 0.2% gain. The increase compared to a 1.5% decline in unit vehicle sales reported earlier this month. Electronics & appliance store sales improved 0.2% (1.9% y/y) following a 0.1% dip. To the downside were sales at furniture & home furnishings stores which fell 2.4% (+3.5% y/y) and reversed the prior month's gain. Sporting goods, hobby, book & music store purchases declined 1.1% (-0.7% y/y) after a 0.2% slip.

Purchases at gasoline service stations increased 2.0% (17.7% y/y) as the pump price of gasoline rose.

Sales of nondiscretionary items were mixed last month. Health & personal care store sales gained 0.5% (2.9% y/y) as they did in April. Food & beverage store sales were fairly steady (3.6% y/y) following a 0.5% increase.

Individuals recovered an interest in eating out last month. Food service & drinking establishment sales increased 1.3% (5.1% y/y) after a 0.3% fall.

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

Retail Spending (% chg) May Apr Mar May Y/Y 2017 2016 2015
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.8 0.4 0.7 5.9 4.3 3.1 2.6
  Excluding Autos 0.9 0.4 0.4 6.4 4.3 2.7 1.4
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline 0.8 0.3 0.5 5.1 3.7 3.6 4.2
Retail Sales 0.8 0.4 0.7 6.0 4.5 2.8 1.9
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 0.5 0.2 1.9 4.0 4.3 4.6 7.2
 Retail Less Autos 0.8 0.5 0.3 6.6 4.5 2.2 0.4
  Gasoline Stations 2.0  1.0 0.0 17.7 8.8 -5.7 -17.6
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 1.3 -0.3 1.1 5.1 2.7 5.6 8.2
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