Keeping you up to date on the latest data releases.
- Retail Sales
Retail sales rose 0.4 percent in January, following a downwardly revised flat reading in December. On a year-over-year basis, retail sales are up 5.8 percent—a deceleration from its recent high of 9.1 percent last February—but still above its longer-run (20-year) growth rate of 4.6 percent. Swings in auto sales—down 1.2 percent in January after jumping up 2.5 percent in December—have greatly influenced the headline reading over the past two months. Excluding the auto sector, retail sales jumped up 0.7 percent in January, more than reversing a sharp 0.5 percent decline in December (revised down from a 0.2 percent dip). Importantly, the near-term (3-month) annualized growth rate in ex-auto sales—at 1.6 percent—is well below its 12-month growth rate of 5.5 percent, signaling a slowdown in momentum. Still, cross-category sales performance was mostly positive in January. Aside from autos, the only other categories that decreased in January were furniture and home furnishing stores (down 0.2 percent), health and personal care stores (down 0.3 percent), and nonstore retailers (down 1.1 percent). The strongest sales increases were seen at general merchandise stores (up 2.0 percent), gasoline stations (likely a price-related 1.4 percent jump up), and food and beverage stores (up 1.3 percent) in January. “Core” retail sales (sales excluding autos, building supplies, and gas stations)—a less noisy indicator of the trend in consumption growth—jumped up 0.7 percent in January, erasing a 0.4 percent decrease in December that was its first monthly decrease since July 2010. The series’ near-term annualized growth rate improved from 1.2 percent to 1.6 percent on January’s strength, but is still well off its 12-month trend pace of 4.9 percent.