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Retail Sales: October Retail Sales Disappoint Expectations

November 13, 2015

by Jill Mislinski

The Census Bureau's Advance Retail Sales Report released this morning shows that seasonally adjusted sales in October increased 0.1% month-over-month and are up 1.7% year-over-year. Core Retail Sales (ex Autos) came in at 0.2% MoM and are up only 0.5% YoY.

The forecasts were 0.3% for Headline Sales and 0.4% 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 September Retail Sales were worse than forecast, and YoY Core Retail Sales are lower than they were at the start of the last two recessions. Similarly, Control Sales YoY are hovering at levels seen at the onset of the last two recessions. When the September Consumer Price Index is released tomorrow, we'll take a look Real Retail Sales.