The Census Bureau’s Advance Retail Sales Report for February was released this morning. Headline sales came in at -0.1% month-over-month to one decimal. Today’s headline number was below the consensus of 0.3%. Core sales (ex Autos) came in at 0.2% MoM. December figures were revised.

Here is the introduction from today’s report:

Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for February 2018, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $492.0 billion, a decrease of 0.1 percent (±0.5 percent)* from the previous month, but 4.0 percent (±0.7 percent) above February 2017. Total sales for the December 2017 through February 2018 period were up 4.3 percent (±0.5 percent) from the same period a year ago. The December 2017 to January 2018 percent change was revised from down 0.3 percent (±0.5 percent)* to down 0.1 percent (±0.3 percent)*.

Retail trade sales were down 0.1 percent (±0.5 percent)* from January 2018, but 4.2 percent (±0.7 percent) above last year. Nonstore Retailers were up 10.1 percent (±1.4 percent) from February 2017, while Gasoline Stations were up 7.9 percent (±1.6 percent) from last year. [view full report]

The chart below is a log-scale snapshot of retail sales since the early 1990s. The two exponential regressions through the data help us to evaluate the long-term trend of this key economic indicator.


The year-over-year percent change provides another perspective on the historical trend. Here is the headline series.


Core Sales

Here is the year-over-year version of Core Retail Sales.


“Control” Purchases

The next two charts illustrate retail sales “Control” purchases, which is an even more “Core” view of retail sales. This series excludes Motor Vehicles & Parts, Gasoline, Building Materials as well as Food Services & Drinking Places. The popular financial press typically ignores this series, but it a more consistent and reliable reading of the economy.

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