Retail Sales: February Sales Show Renewed Weakness

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The Census Bureau's Advance Retail Sales Report released this morning showed that seasonally adjusted sales in February contracted month-over-month and the previous month was revised downward. Headline sales decreased 0.1% MoM, which was less than the -0.2% forecast, but January was revised downward rather dramatically from 0.2% to -0.4%. Headline sales are up 3.4% year-over-year. Core Retail Sales (ex Autos) also decreased 0.1% MoM from a downwardly revised January -0.4%, initially reported at a 0.1% increase.

Read Davidowitz: Retail Is Doing Terrible Because Americans Don't Have Any Money

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 that the current level is below 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 February sales and downward revisions to the previous month is a harsh reminder of the ongoing weakness of the US economy.

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