Retail Sales: Up 0.26% In January

By Jill Mislinski

The Census Bureau’s Advance Retail Sales Report for January was released on Feb. 14. Headline sales came in at 0.26% month-over-month to one decimal and were at the Investing.com forecast. Core sales (ex Autos) came in at 0.29% MoM (to two decimals).

Here is the introduction from the report:

Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for January 2020, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $529.8 billion, an increase of 0.3 percent (±0.4 percent)* from the previous month, and 4.4 percent (±0.7 percent) above January 2019. Total sales for the November 2019 through January 2020 period were up 4.4 percent (±0.5 percent) from the same period a year ago. The November 2019 to December 2019 percent change was revised from up 0.3 percent (±0.4 percent)* to up 0.2 percent (±0.2 percent)*.

Retail trade sales were up 0.1 percent (±0.4 percent)* from December 2019, and 4.0 percent (±0.7 percent) above last year. Gasoline stations were up 10.4 percent (±1.2 percent) from January 2019, and nonstore retailers were up 8.4 percent (±1.4 percent) 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.

Retail Sales YoY

Core Sales

Here is the year-over-year version of Core Retail Sales.

Core Retail Sales YoY

“Control” Purchases

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 is a more consistent and reliable reading of the economy.

Control Sales Trends

Here is the same series year-over-year. Note that the current level is near the start of the recession in 2001 and its highest since the Great Recession.

Control Sales YoY

For a better sense of the reduced volatility of the “Control” series, here is a YoY overlay with the headline retail sales.

Headline and Control YoY

Bottom Line: January sales saw another increase month over month and were at forecasts. When FRED publishes its data, we’ll take a closer look at Real Retail Sales.

Original post

Editor’s Note: The summary bullets for this article were chosen by Seeking Alpha editors.

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