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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Increase Firmly
by Tom Moeller  August 15, 2018

Total retail sales rose 0.5% (6.4% y/y) during July following a 0.2% June gain, revised from 0.5%. A 0.2% increase had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales increased 0.6% (7.3% y/y) after a 0.2% gain, revised from 0.4%. A 0.4% rise had been expected. A measure of the underlying pace of retail spending is nonauto sales growth excluding gasoline and building materials. These sales increased 0.5% in July following a 0.1% dip, revised from no change.

Sales patterns amongst categories were mixed last month. Clothing & accessory store sales rebounded 1.3% in July (5.4% y/y) following a 1.6% decline. Also strong were sales of nonstore retailers, rising 0.8% (11.3% y/y) after a 0.7% gain. General merchandise store sales rose 0.7% (1.8% y/y) and reversed a 0.7% decline in June. Electronics & appliance store sales ticked 0.1% higher (4.2% y/y) after a 0.4% rise. Gasoline station sales improved 0.8% (21.6% y/y) after a 0.3% gain.

Building materials & garden equipment store sales held steady (5.8% y/y) after a 0.1% uptick. Weakening were sales at furniture & home furnishings stores which declined 0.5% (+3.9% y/y) following a 0.3% rise. Sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores sales were off 1.7%, down for the fourth straight month.

Sales of nondiscretionary items also were mixed last month. Food & beverages store sales improved 0.6% (3.6% y/y) following no change. Health & personal care product store sales, however, decreased 0.4% (6.2% y/y) after four consecutive months of strong increase.

Eating out remained in vogue last month as restaurant & drinking establishment sales gained 1.3% (9.1% y/y), the fourth strong increase in the last five months.

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

Retail Spending (% chg) Jul Jun May Jul Y/Y 2017 2016 2015
Total Retail Sales & Food Services 0.5 0.2 1.2 6.4 4.3 3.1 2.6
  Excluding Autos 0.6 0.2 1.4 7.3 4.3 2.7 1.4
  Non-Auto Less Gasoline & Food Services 0.5 -0.1 0.8 4.8 3.4 3.0 3.5
Retail Sales 0.4 0.0 1.0 6.1 4.5 2.8 1.9
  Motor Vehicle & Parts 0.2 0.1 0.6 3.1 4.3 4.6 7.2
 Retail Less Autos 0.5 -0.0 1.2 7.0 4.5 2.2 0.4
  Gasoline Stations 0.8 0.3 2.9 21.6 8.8 -5.7 -17.6
Food Service & Drinking Places Sales 1.3 1.6 2.8 9.1 2.7 5.6 8.2
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