August Retail Sales Continue to Disappoint
The Census Bureau's Advance Retail Sales Report for August released this morning was once again disappointing. Headline sales came in at -0.3% month-over-month to one decimal, a 0.35 point decline at two decimal places from last month. The Investing.com consensus was for -0.1%. Core sales (ex Autos) came in at -0.1% MoM. The Investing.com consensus was for a 0.3% decrease.
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 August, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $456.3 billion, a decrease of 0.3 percent (±0.5%)* from the previous month, and 1.9 percent (±0.7%) above August 2015. Total sales for the June 2016 through August 2016 period were up 2.4 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The June 2016 to July 2016 percent change was revised from virtually unchanged (±0.5%)* to up 0.1 percent (±0.2%)*.
Retail trade sales were down 0.5 (±0.5%)* from July 2016, and up 1.4 percent (±0.7%) from last year. Nonstore retailers were up 10.9 percent (±1.4%)
from August 2015, while Health and Personal Care Stores were up 7.8 percent (±2.3%) 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.
Retail Sales: "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 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.
Bottom Line: The August sales were another disappointment after a weak July and strong numbers in June. Tomorrow we'll take a close look at Real Retail Sales after the August Consumer Price Index is released.