Tuesday was a rough morning for the US economy.
Retail sales were a big miss.
Small business optimism declined.
And in a note to clients following these reports, Ian Shepherdson summed up Tuesday’s economic data dump, writing, “Taken together with the drop in the NFIB small business survey reported earlier, the numbers today paint a picture of an economy stuttering in June, likely under the weight of the rebound in gas prices and the drop in stock prices.”
In June, retail sales fell 0.3%, well below expectations for a 0.3% increase. Excluding cars, auto sales fell 0.1% in June and the “control” retail sales reading declined 0.1%. The retail sales control group excludes car sales, tobacco stores, mobile home sales, gas station sales, building materials, and office supplies.
On a year-over-year basis, control retail sales rose 2.1%, the smallest increase since February 2014, according to Bloomberg’s Matt Boesler.
The retail sales report also showed that in June, sales at clothing stores, grocery stores, as well as bars and restaurants all declined from the prior month. A disappointment anyway you cut it up.
Meanwhile, the less-heralded but still important small business reading from the National Federal of Small Businesses was a miss.
The NFIB’s Business Optimism index fell to 94.1 in June from 98.5 in May, and in its release the NFIB said the reading, “is not a recession signal” but “is a clear sign hat economic growth on Main Street is not set for a strong second half.”
The report indicated that small businesses essentially added no jobs in June, while earnings indicators were particularly disappointing, as a net negative 17% of small businesses reported higher wages in June.
And so while Fed chair Janet Yellen on Friday indicated that she still expects it will be appropriate for the Fed to raise rates sometime this year, questions still remain about whether the US economy will be strong enough to warrant this change in policy.
In June, we’ve gotten a disappointing jobs report and now a disappointing retail sales report, perhaps the 2 most important economic indicators on a month-to-month basis.
Shepherdson still expects a bounceback in the data when we get July’s readings, with this leading to a Fed rate hike in September. But of course, it depends.
“One soft month is not a trend,” Shepherdson writes, “and two more retail sales reports will be released before the September FOMC meeting. If they both look like this, the Fed won’t tighten, but we think that’s very unlikely.”
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