Consumerism | timiacono.com

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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The Commerce Department reported(.pdf) that retail sales were unchanged in July following a modest 0.2 percent gain in June and, for the second month in a row, auto sales declined.

Motor vehicle sales dropped 0.2 percent after falling 0.3 percent the month prior, but the July weakness was not only in autos as retailers in five of the thirteen major categories reported lower receipts. Excluding motor vehicles, sales rose just 0.1 percent and, excluding both autos and gasoline, sales were also up just 0.1 percent.

General merchandise stores saw sales drop 0.5 percent and smaller declines were reported at furniture stores, electronics stores, and at nonstore retailers (e.g., internet sales). Strength was reported at clothing stores and health stores where sales rose 0.4 percent and miscellaneous store retailers saw an even larger increase of 0.9 percent for the month.

After robust GDP growth during most of the second quarter, it appears the American consumer may be taking a break over the summer, at least when it comes to buying cars.

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Retail Sales Post Modest Gain

The Commerce Department reported(.pdf) that retail sales rose less than expected last month, up only 0.2 percent in June following an upwardly revised gain of 0.5 percent in May.

The consensus estimate for June was a gain of 0.6 percent and the miss was largely due to a surprise decline of 0.3 percent in auto sales last month. Retail sales less autos rose 0.4 percent and when both autos and gasoline are excluded, sales also rose 0.4 percent.

Sales increased for nine of the thirteen major categories, paced by a gain of 1.1 percent at general merchandise stores (e.g., department stores) and an increase of 0.9 percent at nonstore retailers (e.g., internet sales) and health & personal care stores.

Declining categories were led by home improvement stores where sales fell 1.0 percent and food service where receipts were 0.3 percent lower.

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The Commerce Department reported(.pdf) that May retail sales came in lower than expected, however, upward revisions to the April data offset much of last month’s disappointment.

Overall retail sales rose 0.3 percent in May, well short of the consensus estimate for a gain of 0.6 percent, as strong auto sales were partially offset by lower receipts at department stores and clothing stores. April sales were revised up from a gain of just 0.1 percent to a relatively strong 0.5 percent, this following a surge in both February and March after a sharp winter slowdown due largely to severe winter weather.

Excluding the 1.4 percent jump in auto sales, receipts rose just 0.1 percent last month and, excluding both autos and gasoline, sales were flat. Leading the advancing categories, miscellaneous store retailers saw a sales increase of 1.8 percent, home improvement store sales rose 1.1 percent, and nonstore (internet) retailers improved 0.6 percent.

Surprisingly, 8 of the 13 major categories saw lower sales, paced by drops of 0.6 percent at both general merchandise stores and clothing stores, 0.3 percent at electronics and appliance stores, and 0.2 percent at restaurants and bars.

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