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Retail Sales  
Released On 4/14/2009 8:30:00 AM For Mar, 2009
PriorConsensusConsensus RangeActual
Retail Sales - M/M change-0.1 %0.3 %-0.2 % to 0.9 %-1.1 %
Retail Sales less autos - M/M change0.7 %0.0 %-0.2 % to 0.4 %-0.9 %

March retail sales were surprisingly negative, calling into question the green shoots theory that recovery is underway. Overall retail sales dropped 1.1 percent in March after a 0.3 percent gain in February. The March decline was sharply below the market forecast for a 0.3 percent increase. Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales decreased 0.9 percent, after a 1.0 percent boost the month before. The ex-auto decrease was worse than the consensus projection for no change. The markets are going to be especially disappointed with the fact that declines were widespread by components. Excluding motor vehicles and gasoline, retail sales fell 0.8 percent after gaining 0.7 percent in February.

Sales were weak across the board. But the strongest declines were seen in electronics & appliance stores, down 5.9; motor vehicles, down 2.3 percent; and miscellaneous store retailers, down 2.2 percent.

Overall retail sales on a year-on-year basis in March were down 9.4 percent, compared to down 7.9 percent in February. Excluding motor vehicles, the year-on-year rate dropped to down 6.0 percent from down 4.5 percent the prior month.

The March retail sales report shows the consumer sector back into retreat mode. Most likely some of the weakness was price related as stores engaged in discounting to bring customers in. But the news still is not good. Equities will not like the numbers but bonds will. The recovery just got a setback today in the consumer sector.

Consensus Outlook
Retail sales in February fell back 0.1 percent after a 1.8 percent rebound in January. But weakness was largely in motor vehicles. Excluding this component, retail sales increased 0.7 percent, after a 1.6 percent gain in January. While gasoline sales were up sharply, this was not the only factor behind better sales. Excluding motor vehicles and gasoline, retail sales still posted a 0.5 percent advance after jumping 1.4 percent rebound the previous month. Looking ahead, the headline number for March likely will get help from higher gasoline prices and from a bump up in motor vehicle sales.

Retail sales measure the total receipts at stores that sell merchandise and related services to final consumers. Sales are by retail and food services stores. Data are collected from the Monthly Retail Trade Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Essentially, retail sales cover the durables and nondurables portions of consumer spending. Consumer spending typically accounts for about two-thirds of GDP and is therefore a key element in economic growth.  Why Investors Care
Nearly 75 percent of the time, changes in monthly retail sales are between +1 percent and -1 percent. However, there are many months in which the monthly change falls outside that range. Most of the time, excessive increases or decreases are due to higher/lower spending on motor vehicle sales. Year-over-year changes in retail sales can be volatile as well, but tend to be smoother than monthly changes.
Data Source: Haver Analytics

2009 Release Schedule
Released On: 1/142/123/124/145/136/117/148/139/1510/1411/1612/11
Release For: DecJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNov

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