IT: Retail Sales

Fri Mar 27 05:00:00 CDT 2015

Consensus Actual Previous Revised
Month over Month 0.1% 0.1% -0.2% -0.1%
Year over Year 1.7% 0.1%

Retailers got off to a positive, if hardly spectacular, start to 2015. Sales edged up just 0.1 percent on the month in January after a marginally smaller revised 0.1 percent drop in December but this was only their second increase since April 2014. Unadjusted annual growth was 1.7 percent, some 1.6 percentage points above its year-end rate but flattered by positive workday effects.

However, the monthly headline gain was wholly attributable to food purchases which rose 0.4 percent. Non-food sales were only flat and have now failed to register a monthly increase of any size in half a year. Total sales were still more than 8 percent below their December 2009 peak.

Consumer confidence climbed sharply in mid-quarter which ought to bode well for a stronger gain in purchases next time but against this, buying intentions fell significantly. The signs are that even if household sentiment is improving, unemployment is still too high and the economy in general too weak to relieve what continues to be a high degree of consumer caution.

Retail sales measure the total receipts at stores that sell durable and nondurable goods. The monthly change in the headline figure, which is reported in volume terms, is only disaggregated into food and non-food categories.

With consumer spending a large part of the economy, market players continually monitor spending patterns. Retail sales are a measure of consumer well-being. The pattern in consumer spending is often the foremost influence on stock and bond markets. For stocks, strong economic growth translates to healthy corporate profits and higher stock prices. For bonds, the focus is whether economic growth goes overboard and leads to inflation. Ideally, the economy walks that fine line between strong growth and excessive (inflationary) growth.