Retail Sales Down 1.15% in December, Worse Than Forecast

This article was originally written by Doug Short. From 2016-2022, it was improved upon and updated by Jill Mislinski. Starting in January 2023, AP Charts pages will be maintained by Jennifer Nash at Advisor Perspectives/VettaFi.

The Census Bureau's Advance Retail Sales Report for December was released this morning. Headline sales came in at -1.15% month-over-month and was below the forecast of -0.8%. Core sales (ex Autos) came in at -1.13% MoM.

Here is the introduction from today's report:

Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for December 2022, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $677.1 billion, down 1.1 percent (±0.5 percent) from the previous month, but up 6.0 percent (±0.7 percent) above December 2021. Total sales for the 12 months of 2022 were up 9.2 percent (±0.4 percent) from 2021. Total sales for the October 2022 through December 2022 period were up 6.7 percent (±0.5 percent) from the same period a year ago. The October 2022 to November 2022 percent change was revised from down 0.6 percent (±0.5 percent) to down 1.0 percent (±0.2 percent).
Retail trade sales were down 1.2 percent (±0.5 percent) from November 2022, but up 5.2 percent (±0.7 percent) above last year. Nonstore retailers were up 13.7 percent (±1.1 percent) from December 2021, while food services and drinking places were up 12.1 percent (±2.8 percent) from last year.

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.