Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Advanced Retail Sales Up 1%

From the Census Bureau:

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for November, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $368.9 billion, an increase of 1.0 percent (±0.8%) from the previous month and up 5.6 percent (±0.7%) from November 2005. Total sales for the September through November 2006 period were up 5.3 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The September to October 2006 percent change was revised from -0.4 percent (± 0.7%)* to -0.1 percent (± 0.2%)*.

Retail trade sales were up 1.1 percent (±0.8%) from October and were 5.3 percent (±0.8%) above last year. Nonstore retailers were up 10.1 percent (±4.5%) from November 2005 and sales of health and personal care stores were up 8.7 percent (±1.7%) from last year.

Let's dig a bit more into the numbers.

The biggest jump came from Electronics and Appliance Stores, which saw an increase of 4.6%. This is important because Prudential Securities downgraded Circuit City and Best Buy today. We also saw a 2.3% increase in gasoline sales. The recent uptick in gas prices helped out here. There was also a .9% increase in auto sales and parts. My guess is we are continuing to see a switch to more fuel efficient autos.

Bloomberg noted:

Wage gains are giving consumers the means to spend, keeping the economic expansion from unraveling as housing and manufacturing decline, economists said. Federal Reserve policy makers yesterday held the benchmark interest rate steady for a fourth straight meeting and said that ``the economy seems likely to expand at a moderate pace on balance.''

I previously noted that a decrease in energy related inflation was a primary reason for the wage gains. But as noted above, retail fuel prices are increasing. Obviously they haven't increased enough to debt consumer spending, but it's something to keep an eye on.