February 13, 2014

Weather, or Not? Retail Sales Fall (Update: Seasonal Adjustments Masking Degree of Weakness?)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:53 am

AP’s immediate reax: “US retail sales fell 0.4 percent in January; cold weather slowed shopping and auto buying.”

The Census Bureau’s statement:

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for January, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $427.8 billion, a decrease of 0.4 percent (±0.5%) from the previous month, but 2.6 percent (±0.9%) above January 2013. Total sales for the November 2013 through January 2014 period were up 3.4 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The November to December 2013 percent change was revised from +0.2 percent (±0.5%) to -0.1 percent (±0.3%).

Retail trade sales were down 0.4 percent (±0.5%) from December 2013, but 2.6 percent (± 1.1%) above last year. Nonstore retailers were up 6.5 percent (±2.3%) from January 2013 and auto and other motor vehicle dealers were up 4.1 percent (±3.2%) from last year.

So (seasonally adjusted), November is now +0.2%, December is -0.1%, and January is -0.4%.

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UPDATE: Here’s a look at that pesky raw data —

The Dec. 2012 to Jan. 2013 decline was $87.640 billion.

The Dec. 2013 to Jan. 2014 decline (pending revisions, which if anything are going to be downward) was $93.553 billion, or almost $6 billion greater  (6.7%) decline than the raw decline from a year earlier.

Rephrased from a total perspective: The Dec. 2012 – Jan. 2013 decline was 18.7%. The decline from an already unimpressive Dec. 2013 – Jan. 2014 decline was 19.3%, and I believe will get larger.

The “weather” argument will get worn out of this continues into February and especially March.

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