By Jill Mislinski
The Census Bureau’s Advance Retail Sales Report for January was released on Feb. 14. Headline sales came in at 0.26% month-over-month to one decimal and were at the Investing.com forecast. Core sales (ex Autos) came in at 0.29% MoM (to two decimals).
Here is the introduction from the report:
Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for January 2020, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $529.8 billion, an increase of 0.3 percent (±0.4 percent)* from the previous month, and 4.4 percent (±0.7 percent) above January 2019. Total sales for the November 2019 through January 2020 period were up 4.4 percent (±0.5 percent) from the same period a year ago. The November 2019 to December 2019 percent change was revised from up 0.3 percent (±0.4 percent)* to up 0.2 percent (±0.2 percent)*.
Retail trade sales were up 0.1 percent (±0.4 percent)* from December 2019, and 4.0 percent (±0.7 percent) above last year. Gasoline stations were up 10.4 percent (±1.2 percent) from January 2019, and nonstore retailers were up 8.4 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 is a more consistent and reliable reading of the economy.
Here is the same series year-over-year. Note that the current level is near the start of the recession in 2001 and its highest since the Great Recession.
For a better sense of the reduced volatility of the “Control” series, here is a YoY overlay with the headline retail sales.
Bottom Line: January sales saw another increase month over month and were at forecasts. When FRED publishes its data, we’ll take a closer look at Real Retail Sales.
Editor’s Note: The summary bullets for this article were chosen by Seeking Alpha editors.