CH: Adjusted real retail sales

Thu Feb 01 02:15:00 CST 2018

Actual Previous Revised
Y/Y % change 0.6% -0.2% 0.3%

Retailers had poor end to 2017. Volumes were 0.7 percent lower on the month following a stronger revised 1.5 percent increase in November. Even so, annual growth climbed to 0.6 percent, up from 0.3 percent last time.

December's monthly decline was broad-based. Excluding auto fuel, purchases decreased a hefty 1.6 percent and so more than reversed November's 1.5 percent spurt. Food also fell 1.6 percent after a 0.3 percent gain last time.

However, despite the year-end drop, average fourth quarter retail sales were 0.2 percent above their level in the third quarter when they fell 0.3 percent versus the April-June period. Moreover, recent indicators of consumer confidence (see today's SECO entry) have suggested that households have become more optimistic. With the economic momentum in general picking up, sales should begin to firm more convincingly over coming months.

Retail sales measure the total receipts at stores that sell durable and nondurable goods. The survey comprises around 4,000 companies with the small-sized firms asked to provide monthly turnover data on a quarterly basis. Statistics are provided in both nominal and volume measures; the latter is the more important for financial markets. The headline figure is the annual growth in sales volumes adjusted for differences in trading days. Seasonally adjusted monthly changes are also provided. Details are limited in the first estimate but a more complete picture is provided with the following month's release.

Consumer spending accounts for a large portion of the economy, so 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 is a big advantage for investors. 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.