Retail Sales in May to Act as GDP Drag

Retail sales in May rose by only 0.3% on the headline data, short of the Dow Jones target of 0.7% and short of the Bloomberg target of 0.6%. The number was put at $437.65 billion, and this is enough of a drag that it may impact GDP forecasts on a marginal basis, as consumer spending is such a large component of gross domestic product.

If you back out the auto component, retail sales were up by only 0.1% in May. Now if you back out autos and gasoline, spending was flat. Bloomberg was expecting a gain of 0.4% in May’s ex-auto number and 0.5% in May’s ex-auto and gasoline sales.

The only saving grace here is that April retail sales data was revised higher. Sales were up by 0.5% in April, versus a preliminary report of only a 0.1% gain. The ex-autos component was revised to up 0.4% from a flat initial report for April.

Again, this is low enough that it could shave off some estimates marginally from the second-quarter GDP targets.

Before the panic sets in, it is important to remember that these are seasonally adjusted month-over-month readings. If you compare this to May of 2013, total retail and food sales were up by 4.3%.

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