The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for February, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $346.8 billion, a decrease of 0.1 percent (±0.5%)* from the previous month and 8.6 percent (±0.7%) below February 2008. Total sales for the December 2008 through February 2009 period were down 9.4 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The December 2008 to January 2009 percent change was revised from +1.0 percent (±0.5%) to +1.8 percent (±0.2%).
Retail trade sales were down 0.1 percent (±0.7%)* from January 2009 and 9.8 percent (±0.7%) below last year. Gasoline stations sales were down 32.3 percent (±1.7%) from February 2008 and motor vehicle and parts dealers sales were down 23.5 percent (±2.1%) from last year.
First -- could the people at the Census start adjusting these numbers for inflation? Nominal numbers are just worthless.
Secondly -- this is being touted as good news (and it is). But before we start congratulating ourselves, let's remember where we are. Here are the relevant charts from the St. Louis Fed:
Retail sales have dropped hard and fast for over a year. To say this is a reprieve from the drop is very premature.
And the YOY chart shows we've got serious problems as well.
And as the advance chart shows the auto industry is still in serious trouble. When I see people start to move back into the auto and housing market -- which would indicate more confidence in the future -- then I'll be relieved.