EMU: Retail Sales

Wed Aug 05 04:00:00 CDT 2015

Consensus Actual Previous Revised
Month over Month 0.1% -0.6% 0.2% 0.1%
Year over Year 2.0% 1.2% 2.4% 2.6%

Retail sales were surprisingly weak in June. A 0.6 percent monthly fall was the first decline since March and followed a slightly smaller revised 0.1 percent rise in May. Annual workday adjusted growth of purchases was 1.2 percent, down from 2.6 percent in both mid-quarter and April.

June's setback was primarily attributable to a 0.8 percent monthly drop in sales of food, drink and tobacco. Non-food products, excluding auto fuel, were off only 0.2 percent, although even this was enough to wipe out May's entire rise. Fuel purchases were flat on the month after a 0.2 percent dip last time.

Regionally, headline weakness was dominated by a 2.3 percent monthly slump in Germany although Spain (minus 0.4 percent) also struggled. More promisingly, France (0.1 percent) saw sales increase for a third consecutive period and there were decent gains in Austria (1.3 percent), Belgium, Latvia and Lithuania (all 0.8 percent) and Estonia (0.7 percent).

The June data make for a second quarter increase in Eurozone retail sales of only 0.3 percent, less than a third of the rate achieved in the previous period and just half of the fourth quarter pace. This does not bode well for real GDP growth. Moreover, the EU Commission's economic sentiment survey found consumer sentiment falling in July so it may be that the third quarter got off to a less than robust start too. That said, Greek developments are clearly having some impact and a more concrete resolution of the crisis there might be enough to get households happy to spend again.

Retail sales measure the total receipts at stores that sell durable and nondurable goods.

Retail sales are important indicators of domestic consumer demand and are monitored closely by analysts as an important input to GDP. If you know what consumers are up to, you will have a pretty good idea on where the economy is headed. Needless to say, that's a big advantage for investors. The data are available in both value and volume measures although the press release deals only with volume. In addition to the total, the initial report provides a limited breakdown that separately identifies food, drink and tobacco, and (excluding automotive fuel) non-food products. A more comprehensive dataset is only available with the following month’s release. Unlike the U.S. and Canada, auto sales are not included in the retail sales data.

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.

Retail sales not only give you a sense of the big picture, but also the trends among different types of retailers. Perhaps auto sales are especially strong or apparel sales are showing exceptional weakness. These trends from the retail sales data can help you spot specific investment opportunities, without having to wait for a company's quarterly or annual report.