The Advance Retail Sales Report released this morning shows that sales in August rose 0.6% (0.58% at two decimals) month-over-month, up from 0.3% in July (an upward revision from 0.0%). Core Retail Sales (ex Autos) rose 0.3%, up from 0.1% in July. This was the largest increase since April's 0.62%.
The two charts below are log-scale snapshots of retail sales since the early 1990s. Both include an inset to show the trend over the past 12 months. The one on the left illustrates the "Headline" number. On the right is the "Core" version, which excludes motor vehicles and parts (commonly referred to as "ex autos"). Click on either thumbnail for a larger version.
The year-over-year percent change provides a better idea of trends. Here is the headline series.
Here is the year-over-year version of Core Retail Sales.
Retail Sales: "Control" Purchases
The next chart illustrates 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. I've highlighted the 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.
Real Retail Sales: A Preliminary Estimate
After the Consumer Price Index for August is released next week, we'll have a more detailed look at retail sales adjusted both for inflation and population growth. A preliminary estimate of real sales, based on an extrapolation for the seasonally adjusted CPI, is a month-over-month decline of 0.4%, which would put the YoY growth in the vicinity of 2.8%.
Bottom Line: The Advance Retail Sales for August, both headline and core, were in line with expectations. However, the Advance numbers are subject to substantial revisions, as I've illustrated here.