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Retail Sales: August Retail Sales Show Growth, But a Bit Shy of Expectations

September 15, 2015

by Doug Short

The Census Bureau's Advance Retail Sales Report released this morning shows that seasonally adjusted sales in August increased 0.2% month-over-month and 2.2% year-over-year. Core Retail Sales (ex Autos) came in at 0.1% MoM and 1.2% YoY.

The forecasts were 0.3% for Headline Sales and 0.2% for Core Sales.

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.

Retail Sales Trends

The year-over-year percent change provides another perspective on the historical trend. Here is the headline series.

Retail Sales YoY

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

Core Retail Sales YoY

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.

Control Sales Trends

Here is the same series year-over-year. Note the highlighted values at the start of the two recessions since the inception of this series in the early 1990s.

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: The August Retail Sales showed somewhat less growth than forecast. However, the "Control" number at 0.5% MoM was quite good. When the August Consumer Price Index is released later this week, we'll take a look Real Retail Sales.