United States: Retail sales growth edges up in January
February 14, 2020
Nominal retail sales increased 0.3% month-on-month in seasonally-adjusted terms in January, up from December’s revised 0.2% rise (previously reported: +0.3% month-on-month) and matching market expectations. Retail sales excluding cars, gasoline, building materials and food services—also known as core retail sales as they most closely reflect private consumption in the GDP readings—were flat in January following December’s downwardly revised 0.2% increase.
Despite the decent headline print at the start of the year, it was partially inflated by building material and supplies sales which grew a robust 2.1% in January, likely boosted by an unusually warm winter this year. Moreover, purchases of motor vehicles and parts rebounded in January as did sales at non-store retail, which includes online shopping. Conversely, sales of electronics and appliances; health and personal care; and clothing and accessories all fell in the month. Spending at gasoline stations also dipped amid weaker global crude oil prices.
In annual terms, retail sales growth eased notably to 4.4% in January following December’s over one-year high of 5.5%. Meanwhile, the annual average variation in retail sales edged up to 3.7% in January from 3.5% in December, which represented a seven-month high.
Author: Lindsey Ice, Economist