Retail sales were modestly better than forecast in April as nine of thirteen major selling categories gained with clothing, autos and building materials leading.
Overall sales rose 0.1% on expectations for 0.3% fall, the March result was revised 0.1% lower to -0.5%, according to the Commerce Department. Purchases minus automobiles slid 0.1%, less than the -0.2% median prediction. The March figure was unchanged at -0.4%.
Sales have been uneven this year with the overall number declining in January and March but rising in February and April. The same is true for the 'ex auto' number, increasing in January and February but falling in March and April. Over the past ten years headline sales and sales 'ex-autos have averaged 0.3% a month.
For the decade before the financial crash in the fall of 2008, that is from January 1998 until December 2007 the average monthly increase was 0.5%, the monthly 'ex-auto’ increase averaged 0.4%. From January 2009 through April this year the average monthly gain has been 0.4% and the 'ex-autos' gain has likewise been 0.4% a month.,
Core retail sales, which excludes cars, gasoline and building material and most closely matches the consumer spending component in the GDP calculation rose 0.5% in April after being revised higher in March to 0.1% from -0.2%.
The reasonable performance of retail sales despitea payroll tax hike at the beginning of the year will help mitigate concerns that the economy slowed markedly in the second quarter. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of US economic activity.
Retails sales numbers are not adjusted for inflation.
Chief Market Strategist