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 $421.4 billion, an increase of 1.1 percent (±0.5%) from the previous month and 4.6 percent (±0.7%) above February 2012. Total sales for the December 2012 through February 2013 period were up 4.5 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The December 2012 to January 2013 percent change was revised from +0.1 percent (±0.5%)* to +0.2 percent (±0.3%)*.
Let's look at some of the data:
Above is a scatterplot chart graphing the year over year percentage change in real retail sales with real GDP. What we see is that when real retail sales increase on a year over year basis, the year over year percentage change in real GDP will probably be positive as well. I've averaged the monthly retail sales numbers into quarterly numbers to coordinate them with the quarterly GDP numbers.
Unfortunately, we only have about 20 years of real retail sales data. But of the data we do have, we see a strong correlation.
The chart above is simply for total retail sales, which clearly continue to rise.
This number bodes very well going forward.