Retail Sales Weak as Auto Sales Jump

by devteam August 13th, 2009 | Share

Ouch. Retail Sales fared quite a bit worse than expected in July, as total sales dipped by 0.1%. That may not seem like a major decline, but analysts were expecting to see a 0.8% jump in the month, following a 0.8% gain in June. What happened?

As expected, the ‘cash-for-clunkers’ program helped boost auto sales in the month, but those gains weren’t enough to mask the soft underlying details of the report.

Motor vehicles & parts advanced 2.4% in the month, largely during the final week when people began trading in old cars for a government rebate on new, less gas-guzzling rides.

Excluding auto sales, retail sales fell 0.6% in the month, with declines seen just about everywhere save for food & beverage places, nonstore retailers, and of course autos. 

James Knightley, economist at ING Financial Markets, called the retail report “a major disappointment.” 

“Admittedly we did see June revised up from 0.6% to 0.8%,” he said. “However, it isn't consistent with a particularly vigorous recovery and underlines why the Fed is retaining a somewhat cautious tone at the moment.”

The two biggest declines were in gasoline station sales and building material & supplies, which each fell 2.1% in the month. The decline in oil prices in July accounted for the drop in gasoline store sales, which have fallen by nearly one-third since July 2008. Building material & supplies continue to struggle along with the construction industry, and have fallen 14.7% in the past 12 months.

  • Retail & food stores: 0.1%.
  • Motor vehicles and parts: +2.4%
  • Furniture and home furnishings: -0.9%
  • Electronics & Appliances: -1.4%
  • Building material, gardens & supplies: -2.1%
  • Food & Beverage: -0.3%
  • Health & personal care: +0.7%
  • Gasoline station sales: -2.1%
  • Clothing: +0.6%
  • Sporting goods: -1.9%
  • General merchandise: -0.8%
  • Nonstore retailers: +0.1%
  • Food services & drinking places: +0.4%

Since last year, total retail sales have fallen 8.3%.

Looking ahead, Deutsche Bank’s chief US economist said toexpect consumer spending to remain soft for the medium term, “owing tostructural household headwinds â€

About the Author


Steven A Feinberg (@CPAsteve) of Appletree Business Services LLC, is a PASBA member accountant located in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

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