- Fewer motor vehicle sales & lower gasoline prices weigh on spending.
- Online sales surge again.
- Sales elsewhere are uneven.
Consumers pulled back spending modestly in February, as overall retail sales fell 0.4% (+5.4% y/y). The decline followed a 3.2% January surge, revised from 3.0% reported last month. The decline matched expectations in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Sales excluding motor vehicles eased 0.1% (+6.8% y/y) after rising 2.4% in January, revised from 2.3%. Expectations had been for a 0.1% dip. These latest results followed moderate declines in both December & November.
Last month’s sales decline reflected a 1.8% drop (-0.2% y/y) in motor vehicle sales after they surged 7.1% in January. Sales fell sharply in the prior two months. The latest decline compared to a 6.3% weakening in unit vehicle sales which also followed a January surge. Gasoline station sales eased 0.6% (-1.9% Y/Y) as gasoline prices weakened. It was the fourth consecutive monthly decline. Sales amongst other stores were mixed. Spending in the retail control group, which excludes autos, building materials, gasoline & restaurants, rose 0.5% (7.0% y/y) after strengthening 2.3% in January. Sales here declined in December & November.
Sales of nonstore retailers rose 1.6% (8.5% y/y) last month after a 1.8% increase in January. Electronics and appliance store sales improved 0.3% (-2.8% y/y) after a 6.5% increase. Sales fell in each of the prior eight months. General merchandise store sales improved 0.5% (10.5% y/y) after rising 4.3% in January. However, within that category, department store sales declined 4.0% (+2.5% y/y) after an 18.1% January rise. Also falling were furniture and home furnishing store sales, off 2.5% (+0.1% y/y) after a 5.7% January surge. Apparel sales eased 0.8% (+4.3% y/y) in February following a 2.9% January gain. Sporting goods & hobby shop store sales fell 0.5% (+3.9% y/y) after modest increases in each of the prior four months. Building materials store sales eased 0.1% (+0.6% y/y) after January’s 0.4% gain.
In the nondiscretionary sales categories, health & personal care store sales rose 0.9% (8.0% y/y) after a 3.1% January surge. Food & beverage store sales increased 0.5% last month (5.5% y/y) after two months of moderate decline.
Consumer visits to restaurant & drinking places found them spending 2.2% less in February (+15.3% y/y) after a 5.6% January increase. Retail Sales data can be found in Haver’s USECON database. The expectations figures are from the Action Economics Forecast Survey in AS1REPNA.
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