Retail Sales Now Disappoint for 3 Straight Months

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Just yesterday the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development raised its gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates for the United States and world for 2018 and 2019. But with roughly two-thirds of GDP tied to consumer spending, what should the markets make of a big disappointment in retail sales for February?

Retail sales posted an overall decline of 0.1% in February, after having dropped by 0.3% in January. The consensus estimates from both Dow Jones and Thomson Reuters were for a gain of 0.3%.

This marked the third consecutive decline for retail sales. Some economists and market pundits may wonder if the lower tax withholdings are going to matter much, but it also may be too soon to have worked its way into the system, and many of those lower withholdings have only just started coming for workers.

In raw dollar terms, the U.S. Department of Commerce showed that retail sales were $492 billion in February.

These numbers for February looked rather poor on the surface, until we get into some of the details. Excluding autos, retail sales were up 0.2% in February. If you back out autos and gasoline, then the sales number would have been up by 0.3%.

For some better hope, the numbers did look up 4% from a year earlier.

Retail trade sales were down by 0.1% from January 2018 but were up by some 4.2% from last year.

The mighty e-commerce trading keeps going. The so-called nonstore retailers showed a gain of 10.1% from February 2017. Gasoline stations sales were up by 7.9%.

Each retail sales estimate is based on a subsample of roughly 4,700 retail and food services firms, and the sales figures are weighted and benchmarked to represent the complete universe of over 3 million retail and food services firms.

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