Retail Sales: -0.2% month-over-month (Cons: -0.2%); +5.2% year-over-year
Retail Sales Ex-Auto & Gas: +0.1% month-over-month (Cons: +0.3%); +4.1% year-over-year
Core Retail Sales: +0.5% month-over-month (Cons: +0.3%); +4.0% year-over-year
Headline retail sales month-over-month growth was soft in March. February headline retail sales growth was also revised down. For all of Q1, headline retail sales grew 1.0% compared to Q4 2016. Headline retail sales grew 1.8% in Q4 compared to Q3.
Unlike headline retail sales, which were hurt by a second consecutive greater than 1% month-over-month decline in auto sales, core retail sales experienced positive month-over-month growth in March. The caveat being that core retail sales month-over-month growth in February was also revised downwards. Core retail sales exclude auto, gas, building materials and food services sales. Core retail sales grew 1.0% in Q1 compared to Q4 2016 after growing 0.9% in Q4 compared to Q3.
First quarter retail sales data was volatile on a month to month basis. January data was strong, February data was weak and March data was mixed. However, the retail sales data over the last six months points to a healthy U.S. consumer despite a slowdown in new car sales after a record pace in 2016. With March’s data, core retail sales are up 4.0% at an annualized rate over the last six months and headline retail sales are up 3.7% at an annualized rate over the same time period.
Motor vehicle and parts sales fell 1.2% month-over-month in March after a 1.5% decline in February. The category, however, is still up 5.6% year-over-year as of March 2016.
Department store sales were up 0.2% month-over-month in March, but the category down 4.5% year-over-year as of March 2016.