Consumerism |

Big Misses for Retail Sales, NY Manufacturing

The Commerce Department reported(.pdf) that retail sales unexpectedly fell last month, down 0.3 percent in September after an increase of 0.6 percent in August. The declines were broad-based and this is a possible indication of slowing growth in the U.S. economy.

Excluding autos, September sales fell 0.2 percent after a gain of 0.3 percent and, excluding both autos and gasoline, sales fell 0.1 percent following a jump of 0.5 percent in August. The consensus estimate for the latter, so-called “core” retail sales, was for a gain of 0.5 percent, so, this report is being rightly viewed as a fairly big miss.

Flagging auto sales and lower gasoline prices (both down 0.8 percent) were key drivers in the overall decline, but a sharp slowdown in clothing store sales (down 1.2 percent), home improvement and internet sales (both down 1.1 percent), and furniture sales (down 0.8 percent) provide fresh evidence that the U.S. economy may struggle late in the year.

In other economic news, manufacturing activity in the New York has slowed sharply in recent weeks according to the New York Fed’s Empire State index that tumbled from a five-year high of 27.5 in September to just 6.2 in October. New orders plunged from +16.9 to -1.7 (indicating contraction), shipments fell from 27.1 to 1.1, and the inventories index rose from -7.6 to +2.2 (from contraction to expansion).

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August Retail Sales Rose Broadly

The Commerce Department reported(.pdf) that retail sales rose broadly last month, up 0.6 percent in August following an upwardly revised increase of 0.3 percent in July. Excluding autos, sales rose 0.3 percent during each of the last two months and, excluding both autos and gasoline, sales increased 0.5 percent last month after a gain of 0.3 percent in July.

So-called core retail sales, excluding autos, gasoline, building materials, and food service rose 0.4 percent during both July and August, this figure being important because it feeds directly into the calculation of Gross Domestic Product.

Sales gains in dollar terms were led by the auto industry where motor vehicles sales rose 1.5 percent. Building materials & garden equipment sales increased 1.4 percent while the much smaller miscellaneous store retailers category jumped 2.5 percent.

Falling energy prices resulted in gasoline station sales dropping 0.8 percent and general merchandise retailers were the only other major group to post a decline, down 0.1 percent.

On a year-over-year basis, retail sales rose to a 13-month high of 5.0 percent, up sharply from the winter slowdown that saw the annual sales gain dip to as low as 1.6 percent.

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George Carlin on Shoppin’ and Eatin’

Recently stumbled upon this and it seemed worth hoisting up here this morning:

Towards the end, the American consumer is characterized thusly: “People spending money they don’t have buying things they don’t need”. Hmmm… I’ve said that many times over the years and never really knew where it came from.

Also see the late Mr. Carlin’s take on the fading American Dream which, actually, is part of the same appearance – skip to about the 1:30 mark to pick up where the above video ends.

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The Conference Board reported that consumer confidence reached a fresh seven-year high this month as Americans are increasingly optimistic about the economy in general and the job market in particular. The group’s confidence index rose from a downwardly revised 90.3 in July to a new recovery high of 92.4 this month as the present situation component jumped 6.7 points to 94.6. The expectations component dipped 1.0 point to 90.9.

Earlier, two reports indicated slowing momentum in the nation’s housing market as the Case Shiller Home Price Index showed declining year-over-year gains, down from 9.3 percent to 8.1 percent, and the FHFA reported price gains dropped from 5.5 percent to 5.1 percent.

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