- January retail sales were a positive surprise.
- The numbers:
- advance retail sales increased 0.2%mom, a bit better than market consensus; December was revised up from -0.1% to 0.2%mom gain;
- excluding gasoline stations, sales increased 0.4%mom and December was revised from flat to +0.2%;
- control group increased 0.6%mom well above +0.3% consensus, more than offsetting December's -0.3%mom report.
- Trend growth remains unchanged:
- 12-month growth of total retail sales ex gasoline stations increased from 4.6% to 4.8%.
- 12-month growth of the 'control group' remained at 3.3%.
- Both trends are very close to the 4-year growth pace: consumers remain resilient!
- Recall that retail prices have trended slightly down -- so the above growth rates understate volume growth!
- Despite all the headlines of an inventory problem in the retail sector, inventory-to-sales ratio remained roughly flat (excluding gasoline).
The overall trend for retail sales excluding gasoline at gas stations increased to 4.8% in the last 12 months (from 4.6%). This trend is broadly unchanged compared to the longer (4 year) trend of 4.5% nominal growth.
The chart below compares total retail sales with retail excluding gasoline sales. It is clear that most of the slowdown in retail sales since mid-2015 was due to falling gasoline prices. Moreover, even considering gasoline, sales moved up in Nov/Dec/Jan.
Looking at the "control group" (total retail excluding auto dealers, bldg materials, gas stations) a similar growth picture emerges: 3.3% growth in the last year and 3.0% in the last 4 years.
Excluding residual gasoline sales that are inside the control group (fuel dealers) shows a better picture, with adjusted-control sales growing faster than the number reported.
Also, it is important to recall that (control group) retail prices have been trending down in the last year...
...which results in a very healthy growth rate in retail volumes.
Inventories: stable if one excludes gasoline sales (latest: December)
The charts below show retail and food services by kind of business. The red line is an index in log (averages zero in the period) so that a number 10 in the scale means sales are 10% higher than the period average. The red dashed line is the trend in the last 12 months and the blue bars (right scale) are the monthly percentage change. The headline is how the slope of the red dashed line has changed compared to last two months.
Last 12 months trend moved from 6.4% to 7.2% to 7.6%
Last 12 months trend moved from 5.8% to 6.5% to 5.4%
Last 12 months trend from -1.8% to -2.6% to -2.9%
Last 12 months trend moved from 3.0% to 3.9% to 5.3%
Last 12 months trend moved from 1.8% to 1.5% to 1.7%
Last 12 months trend moved from 3.8% to 4.4% to 4.5%
Last 12 months trend moved from -11.6% to -8.8% to -9.3%
Last 12 months trend moved from 1.8% to 1.7% to 1.6%
Last 12 months trend moved from 7.0% to 8.4% to 8.2%
Last 12 months trend from 2.9% to 2.1% to 2.4%
Last 12 months trend moved from 2.9% to 2.9% to 2.9%
Last 12 months trend moved from 7.2% to 7.2% to 7.3%
Last 12 months trend from 5.9% to 6.4% to 6.3%