The Census Bureau said that retail sales cooled in July after strong gains in the second quarter. Sales were unchanged in July, with Americans pausing in their consumer spending growth after jumping 0.8 percent in June. This suggests that the public was more cautious in July, likely on uncertainties in the global economy and some soft economic data. Retail sales have risen 2.3 percent over the past 12 months, a modest pace but down from 3.0 percent in the prior report. To be fair, gasoline station sales have fallen 11.0 percent year-over-year on reduced prices, pulling the headline number lower. Excluding gasoline, retail sales were up 3.5 percent year-over-year, suggesting that consumers have increased their purchases at a fairly decent pace over the past year. Read More
The Census Bureau said that retail sales picked up in June, increasing by 0.6 percent and rising for the third straight month. Spending rose by 2.0 percent in the second quarter, a nice improvement from being down 0.6 percent in the first quarter. This suggests that Americans were more willing to open their pocketbooks in recent months – progress after a more cautious stance at the end of last year and earlier this year. Retail sales have increased by 2.7 percent over the past 12 months, up from 2.2 percent in the prior report. Moreover, reduced gasoline prices (down 9.6 percent year-over-year) pulled the headline number lower. Excluding gasoline, retail sales were up 3.9 percent year-over-year, suggesting that consumers have increased their purchases have risen at a fairly decent pace over the past year. Read More
The Census Bureau said that retail sales increased by 0.5 percent, stronger than expected, extending the 1.3 percent rebound seen in April. This suggests that Americans have begun to open their pocketbooks in the second quarter, following a more-cautious stance at the end of last year and in the first quarter. Retail spending has increased modestly over the past 12 months, up 2.5 percent since May 2015. Moreover, reduced gasoline prices (down 9.5 percent year-over-year) pulled the headline number lower. Excluding gasoline, retail sales were up 3.7 percent year-over-year, suggesting that consumers have increased their purchases have risen at a fairly decent pace over the past year. With that said, retail sales excluding gasoline stations have eased somewhat in recent months, down from 4.5 percent year-over-year in December. Read More
The Census Bureau said that retail sales rose 1.3 percent in April, rebounding from a decline of 0.3 percent. Much of that improvement stemmed from better motor vehicles and parts sales, up 3.2 percent and offsetting the 3.2 percent decrease in the prior report. Other sectors with increased sales in April included gasoline stations (up 2.2 percent), nonstore retailers (up 2.1 percent), miscellaneous store retailers (up 1.5 percent), food and beverage stores (up 0.9 percent), health and personal care stores (up 0.9 percent) and furniture and home furnishings stores (up 0.7 percent), among others. The segment with reduced sales in April was building materials and garden supplies, down 1.0 percent.
Overall, consumers continue to spend modestly, with retail spending up 3.0 percent over the past 12 months. That is a decent pace, even if there remains a sense that the public might be holding back from even stronger spending. The year-over-year rate in February, for instance, was 3.6 percent.
It is also important to recognize the impact that lower gasoline prices have had on the data. Reduced prices have decreased gasoline station sales by 9.4 percent. Excluding gasoline stations, retail sales were up 4.1 percent year-over-year. As such, spending is perhaps better than the headline number suggests.
The Census Bureau said that retail sales declined by 0.3 percent in March, declining for the second time in the past three months. As a result, retail spending decreased by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2016, down from $449.7 billion in December to $446.9 billion in March. This suggests that consumer spending will not be the boost to real GDP that we saw in the fourth quarter, and it is yet another sign that Americans might be holding back a little in their purchases in light of recent economic anxieties. Along those lines, the year-over-year growth rate for retail sales fell from 3.7 percent in February to 1.7 percent in March. Read More
The Census Bureau said that retail sales declined by 0.1 percent in February, but perhaps more importantly, it also reported that spending fell 0.4 percent in January. It was originally reported to be a gain of 0.2 percent. On the surface, this release indicates softer-than-desired spending so far in 2016. Yet, the year-over-year pace remains decent, up a modest 3.1 percent since February 2015.
To more fully understand these data, however, it is important to dig a little deeper. Much of the decline over the past two months has stemmed from reduced gasoline prices. Indeed, the average price of regular conventional gasoline, according to the Energy Information Administration, fell from $1.93 per gallon the last week of December to a seven-year low of $1.64 a gallon in mid-February. Along those lines, gasoline station sales – which are reported in nominal dollars – fell 3.3 percent and 4.4 percent in January and February, respectively. Excluding gasoline station sales, retail spending rose 0.2 percent in February, and on a year-over-year basis, that figure was 4.8 percent. That suggests a much healthier pace of consumer spending than the headline number might indicate. Read More
The NAM Manufacturing Outlook Index declined from 45.8 in September to 40.5 in the most recent survey, falling below the historical average for the second consecutive quarter. Nearly 60 percent of respondents were either somewhat or very positive about their own company’s outlook, a sharp decline from the 91.2 percent who said the same thing one year ago. Manufacturers continue to wrestle with global headwinds and lower commodity prices, which likely dampened enthusiasm in this report, especially regarding export expectations, with roughly 58 percent suggesting that their firms were negatively impacted by the global slowdown. Capital spending and hiring plans pulled back materially from the prior survey, which we also saw in the latest job openings numbers. On the positive side, manufacturing leaders anticipate 1.4 percent growth in sales and production over the next 12 months. While this pace remained well below the 4.5 percent pace observed in December 2014, it does suggest that activity remains positive, albeit less than desired.
The top business challenge was an unfavorable business climate, cited by 77.3 percent of manufacturing respondents. Indeed, manufacturers continue to be frustrated with the lack of comprehensive tax reform and with a perceived regulatory assault on their businesses. Rising health care and insurance costs were also a major concern, cited by 72.2 percent as a primary challenge. Manufacturers see health insurance costs increasing eight percent over the next 12 months. Small and medium-sized firms anticipate health insurance premiums to jump faster in the next year than large manufacturers do, with rates rising 8.6 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively.
Retail sales rose 0.1 percent in October, improving ever-so-slightly from being unchanged in both August and September. As such, this report continues to reflect anxieties among consumers, with some hesitance for them to open their pocketbooks on recent economic weaknesses. Indeed, retail spending has grown just 1.7 percent over the past 12 months, a modest but less-than-ideal pace. Read More
The Census Bureau said that retail sales rose 0.2 percent in August, slowing from the 0.7 percent growth rate seen in July. It was the fourth increase in the past six months (with the other two being unchanged), as consumer spending has rebounded somewhat from softness earlier in the year. The year-over-year pace has improved from a disappointing 1.3 percent pace in April to 2.2 percent in August; although, that was down from 2.6 percent in the prior report. Nonetheless, the public remains cautious in their willingness to open their pocketbooks. As an illustration of that point, retail sales growth was 4.9 percent year-over-year twelve months ago, or almost double the current pace. Read More
The Census Bureau said that retail sales increased 0.6 percent in July, bouncing back from being unchanged in June. The prior month’s softness had been unexpected, making the rebound in July more welcome. The year-over-year pace improved from a disappointing 1.3 percent pace in April to 2.4 percent in July. Needless to say, even that modest rate of consumer spending suggests that the public remains somewhat cautious in their willingness to open their pocketbooks. As an illustration of that point, retail sales growth was 4.7 percent year-over-year in November, or almost double the current pace. Read More