There was much at stake in today’s retail sales report, because had the Census reported another miss in the headline, ex auto and control group data, it would have made the Fed’s job of maintain the illusion of a recovery into a rate hike cycle virtually impossible. Luckily for Yellen, the numbers came out and they were were beats across the board.

  • Retail sales rose to $449.904b in January, up from $449.1b in December
  • Retail sales rose 0.2%, higher than the estimated 0.1% rise
  • Retail sales less autos rose 0.1% in Jan., also better than the 0.0% estimate
  • Retail sales ex-auto dealers, building materials and gasoline stations rose 0.4% in Jan., better than the 0.3% estimate
  • Finally, the ‘control group’ rose 0.6% in Jan., well above the 0.3% estimate, and most notably the highest increase since May. Adding to the optimistic results was that every data point was revised higher. 

    Several charts breaking down the retail sales data:

    The breakdown by segment showed an increase in virtually all categories except gasoline stations (due to continued deflation in gas prices), a 0.5% drop in home furniture sales, a -2.1% decline in sporting goods sales, and a -0.5% decline in food service and drinking places.

    Some more details from Reuters:

    Growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, moderated in the fourth quarter. That, together with weak export growth because of a strong dollar, efforts by businesses to sell inventory and cuts in capital goods spending by energy firms, restrained GDP growth to a 0.7 percent annual pace. Consumer spending is being supported by a strengthening labor market, which is starting to lift wages.

    Still, households remain cautious about boosting spending, against the backdrop of an uncertain global economic outlook and a sustained decline in oil prices, which have sparked a broad stock market sell-off.

    Overall retail sales rose 0.2 percent in January as cheaper gasoline undercut receipts at service stations and harsh winter weather weighed on spending at restaurants and bars. Retail sales increased by an upwardly revised 0.2 percent in December, up from the previously reported 0.1 percent gain.

    Sales at service stations fell 3.1 percent after decreasing 0.5 percent in December. Auto sales advanced 0.6 percent after rising 0.5 percent in December.

    Receipts at clothing stores gained 0.2 percent. Sales at online retailers jumped 1.6 percent, but receipts at sporting goods and hobby stores fell 2.1 percent. Sales at electronics and appliance outlets edged up 0.1 percent.

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