Keeping you up to date on the latest data releases.
- Retail Sales
Total retail sales slipped down 1.2 percent (nonannualized) in May, its largest decrease since last September, but is trending at an annualized growth rate of 6.0 percent over the past three months. While the headline number seems dour, the details are a little more sanguine. Price effects likely played a role in May’s decrease, as oil prices fell and some component prices have been trending lower as of late. Nominal sales fell at gasoline stations (down 3.3 percent), clothing and accessory stores (down 1.3 percent), and general merchandise stores (down 1.1 percent), but price effects likely played a role as oil prices fell during the month and those component prices have been trending lower as of late. Also, sales of building materials and at garden equipment and supply dealers plummeted 9.3 percent in May (its largest decrease since the series began in 1992), following two consecutive months of above 8.0 percent growth. However, building material sales get picked up in residential construction, and the pattern of sales is likely influenced by the expiration of the first-time home-buyers tax credit. A measure of “core” retail sales, designed to give us a clearer look at the underlying trend—sales excluding autos, building supplies, and gas stations—inched up 0.1 percent in May, following a slight dip in April (−0.2 percent). The 3-month annualized growth rate in core retail sales fell from 7.7 percent to 2.0 percent in May, though the series is still up 4.4 percent over the past year.