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Retail sales bounce back in January

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NRF says results represent positive start to 2019.

WASHINGTON – Retail sales rebounded in January, the National Retail Federation said on Monday. Sales increased by 1.3% seasonally adjusted from December and by 3.6% unadjusted year-over-year. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.“Retail sales recovered in January after the unexpected drop in December, reinforcing a positive start to 2019,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement. “American consumers regained confidence as concerns over the government shutdown and stock market volatility faded and trade talks moved in a positive direction. Although some hesitancy is still lingering, it is good to see consumer spending showing traction given the concerns on the minds of American families last month. We expect higher wages and low unemployment to continue to promote consumer confidence in the year ahead.”

As of January, the three-month moving average was up 2.7% over the same period a year ago. The January numbers follow an unexpected revised 0.1% drop in December year-over-year.

“Retail sales in December were revised even lower, but these figures remain suspect given the reporting delays caused by the government shutdown,” Kleinhenz added. “The January rebound further calls into question the accuracy and reliability of the December data. The processing of the delayed data is still unclear, and the volatility of the figures reported is difficult to explain at this point.”

NRF’s numbers for January are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which reported Monday that overall January sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were up 0.2% seasonally adjusted from December and up 2.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

Specifics from key retail sectors during January include:

  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 10.4% year-over-year and up 3.3% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Online and other non-store sales were up 6.3% year-over-year and up 2.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 4% year-over-year and up 1.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • General merchandise stores were up 3.2% year-over-year and up 0.8% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 2.4 percent year-over-year and up 1.6 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 2.1 percent year-over-year but down 1.3 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 2.5 percent year-over-year and down 1.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 3.2 percent year-over-year and down 0.3 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Sporting goods stores were down 6.2 percent year-over-year but up 4.8 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

NRF is forecasting that 2019 retail sales will grow between 3.8% and 4.4%to more than $3.8 trillion. The forecast will be monitored and subject to revision as more data is released in the coming months, the trade group said.


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