Retail Sales Rose 0.4% in April
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Implications:  Retail sales bounced back modestly in April, rising 0.4%, but coming in below the consensus expected 0.8% gain.  About half of the thirteen major retail categories rose in April, led by non-store retailers (internet & mail-order), general merchandise stores (think department stores), and autos.  The largest decline was at gas stations, where sales have now dropped for the past six months in a row and are down 14.6% from a year ago. “Core” sales, which exclude the most volatile categories of autos, building materials, and gas stations, and is an important measure for estimating GDP, rose 0.6% in April and are up 5.2% from a year ago.  In the last twelve months, overall retail sales are up only 1.6%, the slowest yearly gain since the early stages of COVID.  Sales at restaurants & bars, the only look at the service sector we get in this report, rose 0.6% in April and are still up a healthy 9.4% from a year ago.  The consumer continues to shift more of their purchases to services over the goods sector, a trend that will continue throughout the year.  “Real” (inflation-adjusted) retail sales, are down slightly from where they were two years ago and we expect them to be roughly flat to down in the year ahead. Consumers continue to face a headwind from inflation, which is fully offsetting gains in hourly pay.  Meanwhile, the very loose monetary policy of 2020-21 has translated into higher inflation, which is why “real” (inflation-adjusted) retail sales are down versus a year ago.  Our view remains that the tightening in monetary policy since last year will eventually deliver a recession.

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Posted on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 @ 11:09 AM

These posts were prepared by First Trust Advisors L.P., and reflect the current opinion of the authors. They are based upon sources and data believed to be accurate and reliable. Opinions and forward looking statements expressed are subject to change without notice. This information does not constitute a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security.