Doug Short: The Census Bureau’s Advance Retail Sales Report released this morning shows that the seasonally adjusted sales series rebounded in April from its recent weakness. Headline sales came in at 1.3% month-over-month, which was above the 0.8% increase forecast by Investing.com. It is the strongest MoM since the 1.6% gain in March of last year. Headline sales are up 3.0% year-over-year. Core Retail Sales (ex Autos) were also strong at 0.8% MoM, also above the Investing.com forecast of a 0.5% increase. The previous MoM was revised upward for both series: -0.4% to -03% for Headline sales and 0.2% to 0.4% for Core.
Here is the introduction from today’s report:
The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for April, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $453.4 billion, an increase of 1.3 percent (±0.5%) from the previous month, and 3.0 percent (±0.7%) above April 2015. Total sales for the February 2016 through April 2016 period were up 2.8 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The February 2016 to March 2016 percent change was revised from down 0.4 percent (±0.5%)* to down 0.3 percent (±0.2%).
Retail trade sales were up 1.4 percent (±0.5%) from March 2016, and up 2.7 percent (±0.5%) from last year. Nonstore retailers were up 10.2 percent (±1.2%) from April 2015, while gasoline stations were down 9.4 percent (±1.6%) from last year. [view full report]
The chart below is a log-scale snapshot of retail sales since the early 1990s. The two exponential regressions through the data help us to evaluate the long-term trend of this key economic indicator.
The year-over-year percent change provides another perspective on the historical trend. Here is the headline series.
Here is the year-over-year version of Core Retail Sales.
The next two charts illustrate retail sales “Control” purchases, which is an even more “Core” view of retail sales. This series excludes Motor Vehicles & Parts, Gasoline, Building Materials as well as Food Services & Drinking Places. The popular financial press typically ignores this series, but it a more consistent and reliable reading of the economy.
Here is the same series year-over-year. Note that the current level is fractionally below the highlighted values at the start of the two recessions since the inception of this series in the early 1990s.
For a better sense of the reduced volatility of the “Control” series, here is a YoY overlay with the headline retail sales.