United States: Retail sales dip in February, but underlying consumer spending is strong
Retail sales dropped 0.4% month-on-month in seasonally-adjusted terms in February (January: +3.2% mom), broadly in line with market expectations. A decline in February was always to be expected given bumper growth in the prior month. Core retail sales increased 0.5% in February, confounding market expectations for a decline. Taken together, the January–February retail readings suggest robust consumer spending in Q1.
February’s weakening in headline retail sales was largely due to a deterioration in motor vehicle and parts dealer sales. In contrast, food and beverages sales rebounded. Lastly, non-store retail sales lost pace, while gasoline stations sales fell at a softer pace than in January.