United States: Retail sales fall in September
September 13, 2019
Nominal retail sales fell 0.3% month-on- month in seasonally-adjusted terms in September, following the upwardly revised 0.6% rise registered in August (previously reported: +0.4% month-on-month). The unexpected decline, which confounded market analysts who had expected 0.3% growth, marked the first fall in sales in seven months and ended what had otherwise been a strong quarter of retail sales. September’s result paired with a sharp decline in consumer confidence and slowing payroll gains in the same month suggest consumer spending will be more subdued in the quarters ahead.
Retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services—also known as core retail sales as they most closely reflect private consumption in the GDP readings—came in flat on a month-on-month basis in September, down from the 0.3% rise in August.
The decline in spending was nearly broad-based across business categories. Sales in motor vehicle and parts sales—usually a very volatile category—declined, while non-store retail sales, which includes online shopping, also shrank in the month. Moreover, food and beverage stores; building material suppliers; brick-and-mortar stores; and gasoline stations all registered s fall in sales in September. On the other hand, health and personal care, and clothing and accessories sales posted gains in the month.
In annual terms, retail sales growth decelerated to 4.1% in September from a revised 4.4% in August (previously reported: +4.1 year-on-year). Conversely, annual average retail sales growth was stable at 3.4%.
Author: Lindsey Ice, Economist