Retail Sales: March Growth Slightly Below Expectations

The Census Bureau's Advance Retail Sales Report for March released this morning showed a decrease over the February figures. Headline sales came in at -0.2% month-over-month to one decimal and the February number was revised downward from 0.1% to -0.3%. Today's headline number was below the consensus of -0.1%. Core sales (ex Autos) came in at 0.1% MoM, which was below the consensus of 0.3% and the February Core was revised downward.

Here is the introduction from today's report:

Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for March 2017, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $470.8 billion, a decrease of 0.2 percent (±0.5 percent)* from the previous month, and 5.2 percent (±0.9 percent) above March 2016. Total sales for the January 2017 through March 2017 period were up 5.4 percent (±0.7 percent) from the same period a year ago. The January 2017 to February 2017 percent change was revised from up 0.1 percent (±0.5 percent)* to down 0.3 percent (±0.2 percent).

Retail trade sales were down 0.2 percent (±0.5 percent)* from February 2017, and up 5.5 percent (±0.9 percent) from last year. Gasoline Stations sales were up 14.3 percent (±1.4 percent) from March 2016, while Nonstore Retailers were up 11.9 percent (±1.8 percent) 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.

Retail Sales Trends

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

Retail Sales YoY

Core Sales

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

Core Retail Sales YoY