Retail sales fall below expectations

Fredgraph (1)
Weak auto sales pulled down overall retail sales. FRED

Retail sales unexpectedly fell in March, according to the Census Bureau.

Sales fell 0.3% month-over-month, with +0.1% expected.

A weak month for auto sales pulled down the headline retail sales print. During March, auto sales rose at an annualized pace of 16.57 million according to Autodata, below expectations.

But excluding autos, retail sales rose 0.2% in March, and 0.1% when auto and gas sales were stripped out.

“The consensus forecasts always looked too optimistic, given the sharp drop in unit auto sales reported by the manufacturers earlier this month, and the clear tendency for core sales to be understated when Easter falls in March,” wrote Pantheon Macroeconomics’ Ian Shepherdson in a client note.

The average increase in gas prices during March was at the second fastest pace in 12 years, according to John Herrmann at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities.

Sales at gas stations fell 15.6% from last year, but were up 0.9% month-on-month.

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Clothing stores, restaurants and bars recorded declines in sales.

The headline print for February was revised up to 0% from -0.1%.

The portion of retail sales that goes into gross domestic product rose 0.1% (0.4% expected.)

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