The Census Bureau’s Advance Retail Sales Report for April was released this morning.
Headline sales came in at 0.3% month-over-month to one decimal and was slightly below the Investing.com consensus of 0.4%. Core sales (ex Autos) came in at 0.35% MoM (to two decimals). February and March figures were revised.
Here is the introduction from today’s report:
Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for April 2018, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $497.6 billion, an increase of 0.3 percent (±0.4 percent)* from the previous month, and 4.7 percent (±0.5 percent) above April 2017. Total sales for the February 2018 through April 2018 period were up 4.6 percent (±0.5 percent) from the same period a year ago. The February 2018 to March 2018 percent change was revised from up 0.6 percent (±0.5 percent) to up 0.8 percent (±0.2 percent).
Retail trade sales were up 0.4 percent (±0.5 percent)* from March 2018, and 4.8 percent (±0.5 percent) above last year. Gasoline Stations were up 11.7 percent (±1.6 percent) from April 2017, while Nonstore Retailers were up 9.6 percent (±1.4 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.
The year-over-year percent change provides another perspective on the historical trend. Here is the headline series.
Here is the year-over-year version of Core Retail Sales.
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. The popular financial press typically ignores this series, but it a more consistent and reliable reading of the economy.
Here is the same series year-over-year. Note that the current level is above both highlighted values at the start of 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.
Bottom Line: April sales showed an increase month over month, but were slightly worse than forecasts. When FRED publishes their data, we’ll take a closer look at Real Retail Sales.