Why January Retail Sales Were Lower Than Expected

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U.S. consumer spending increased by 3.6% year over year to $492 billion in January but dipped by 0.3% month over month from a downwardly revised December total of $493.3 billion. The U.S. Census Bureau released its estimated retail sales data for January Wednesday morning. A poll of economists had forecast that retail sales would rise 0.3% compared with sales in December.

Sales of motor vehicles fell 1.2% month over month from December and rose 1.6% compared with January 2017. Car sales totaled $100.37 billion last month on an adjusted basis, down from $101.65 billion in December and up from $98.84 billion in January 2016.

Total sales for the three-month period between November and January rose 4.9% compared with year-ago totals.

Retail trade sales slipped 0.3% month over month but rose 3.9% year over year. Nonstore retail sales rose 10.2% year over year. Month over month, nonstore retail sales were flat.

Gasoline station sales rose 1.6% month over month and are up 9% year over year. The increase is due largely to higher pump prices.

Electronics stores posted a sales increase of 0.5% month over month and a year-over-year increase of 1.6%. Department stores posted a month-over-month sales increase of 0.8% and a year-over-year increase of 0.4%.

Sales of building materials and garden supplies fell 2.4% month over month but were 3.6% higher year over year.

Food services and bar sales remained flat month over month and rose 2.1% year over year.

Furniture and home furnishings stores sales fell 0.4% month over month but posted a gain of 4.7% year over year. Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores posted a month-over-month sales decrease of 0.8% and a year-over-year drop of 7.1%.