Retail Sales Monthly % Change, Seasonally Adjusted
Retail sales surprised on the upside last month despite severe weather in many parts of the U.S. The Census Bureau reported that total retail sales increased by a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent while core sales, which exclude autos and gas, jumped by 0.9 percent. Over the past 12 months, total and core sales rose by 3.9 and 2.0 percent, respectively. Electronics and appliance stores, miscellaneous retailers, grocery stores and sporting goods and hobby stores all posted strong growth. Even sales at building supply stores and restaurants increased, which is rare during periods of severe weather. This raises the possibility that these data could be revised lower next month, as the January numbers were. Nevertheless, the report suggests that consumer spending could be on firmer footing than previously believed due to a combination of pent-up demand from months of economizing and the rapid run-up in equity prices over the past year. The headwinds are still in place – high unemployment, a housing market that has yet to stabilize, and the need for consumers to save and pay down debt. Overall, the sales increase is good news for retailers, shopping center landlords and the broader economy, but consumers are not yet in a position to lead the economy into a stronger growth cycle.
Source: Census Bureau, Grubb & Ellis