Friday, April 17, 2009

U.S. Retail Sales Resume Falling After January Uptick

After showing an uptick in January, retail sales dropped in both February and March from year-ago levels, dashing hopes that the recession in the US was bottoming out. Consumer spending accounts for 70% of US economic activity, so it is widely watched as a harbinger of things to come in the broader economy. With joblessness hitting record highs, consumer uncertainty rising, and admonitions that individuals as well as banks were over-leveraged, it's hard to imagine consumer spending roaring back any time soon.

U.S. Retail Sales Activity: March 2008 - March 2009

Source: WSJ

Retail sales fell 1.1% in March, according to the Commerce Department. Auto sales fell by 2.3% in March from the prior month; furniture sales fell 1.7% while electronics and appliances fell 5.9% in March from the previous month. Restaurants showed a decline of 1.4% as con
sumers cut back on eating out.

Also on Wednesday (4/15/09) the Labor Depratment reported that in March the consumer-price index (CPI) fell 0.4% below its year-earlier level, the first decline in over 50 years. Although the Fed continues to print money to refloat credit markets, inflation remains not only in check but the risk of deflation is in the air as consumers cut back on spending, increase savings, and manufacturers and retailers cut prices to entice them back into stores.

Consumer Price Index (CPI) Year-Over-Year Change 2000-2009
Source: WSJ