Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Retail Sales Up. .3%

From the Census Bureau:

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for January, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $382.9 billion, an increase of 0.3 percent (±0.5%)* from the previous month and 3.9 percent (±0.7%) above January 2007. Total sales for the November 2007 through January 2008 period were up 4.4 percent (±0.3%) from the same period a year ago. The November to December 2007 percent change was unrevised from -0.4 percent (±0.4%)*.

Retail trade sales were up 0.4 percent (±0.7%)* from December 2007 and were 3.8 percent (±0.8%) above last year. Gasoline station sales were up 23.0 percent (±2.8%) from January 2007 and sales of nonstore retailers were up 10.6 percent (±2.0%) from last year.

The problem occurs in the details.

So what increased?

Food and Beverage Stores: +.6%
Grocery Stores: +.3%
Health and Personal Care Stores, +.8%
Gas Stations: +2%
Clothing: +1.4%
Autos: +.6%

What does this tell us?

1.) Necessities are increasing.
2.) How much of the food and gas station increase is the result on food a gas inflation?
3.) I have no idea why autos increased. It's especially odd considering:

Economists were surprised by the gain. Car companies reported earlier this month that sales fell to just a 15.3-million annual rate.

What decreased?

Furnitures/home furnishings: -.5%
Sporting Good Stores/Hobby: -1.3%
Building Materials/Gardens: -1.7%
Electronics/Appliance: -1%

Housing still stinks. No duh.
Leisure activity and electronic gizmos. Non-necessities (that's a word now).

The point is the food and gas inflation are behind at least some of the increases. Also, consider this:

However, excluding autos and gas, sales were flat in the month. Read government report.

So, two areas are responsible for those increases. But of those two areas --

1.) Auto sales increased despite auto companies reporting falling sales, and

2.) Gas sales -- while are subject to some pretty serious inflationary pressures -- are responsible for a large part of the gains.

Color me unimpressed.