Friday, February 12, 2010

Retail Sales improve in January

- by New Deal democrat

The Census Bureau reported that retail sales rose +0.5% in January, and +0.6% ex-autos. December was revised from -0.3% to -0.1%. Year over year (not adjusted for inflation) sales were up 5.3%.

Gasoline only contributed +0.1% of that increase. That the sales increase were both with and without cars is also a good sign.

The important number for me is real retail sales, which is a harbinger of jobs growth, and which we won't have officially until the CPI is released next week, but we can estimate the total impact as being +0.4%. In January 2009 we had a retail bounce, the first sign of life from consumers since the panic of Black September 2008, so the YoY increase is about +1.5%. But the increase since the 3-month smoothed April 2009 low for real retail sales is at a rate of 3.0% a year. In the past this has indicated actual job growth.

From Bonddad:

Let's look at some specific categories:

Click for a larger image.

Note there were only four sub-categories that dropped. Two of those areas (furniture and building material/supplies) are housing related.

I've blocked off the last 6 months of data. Notice that we're had four months of strong growth. One of those months was effected by the infusion from cash for clunkers. But, note that after the one month fall off we've had three of four months showing an increase.
UPDATE from NDD: The inventory to sales ratio for businesses fell to 1.26 in December. This is the lowest ratio since November 2007, but even more than that, it is the lowest ratio ever excluding that month and about 6 months in 2005. Businesses are running an extremely lean operation, suggesting that inventory depletion can no longer hold back GDP or employment growth.