|Month over Month||0.2%||-0.1%||-0.2%||-0.1%|
|Year over Year||-0.2%||0.1%||0.0%|
Retail sales fell again in March. Following a marginally smaller revised 0.1 percent monthly drop in February, purchases decreased a further 0.1 percent, their third decline in the last four months. Unadjusted annual growth was minus 0.2 percent, down from 0.0 percent last time.
Both the food and non-food sectors matched the monthly headline fall and the latter has not seen positive growth since October 2014.
March's setback left first quarter volumes unchanged from their level in October-December and means that sales have been essentially flat since the middle of last year. According to Istat, consumer sentiment slipped in April and buying intentions were also a little softer. Household sentiment was still at its second highest level since June 2002 and the improvement in morale since its late 2012/early 2013 trough has been sharp. However, with unemployment at 13 percent, it is hardly surprising that consumers are still reluctant to go out and spend.
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.
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