Something Doesn't Make Sense About That Retail Sales Report

January retail sales just came out, and it was kind of a strange report.

Headline retail sales for January came in at just 0.4 per cent, well below the 0.8 per cent growth that analysts had expected.

But retail sales excluding autos beat nicely (0.7 per cent vs. the 0.5 per cent that was expected). So obviously the weakness came form the auto part of the report.

This chart of sequential growth by category confirms that auto sales were the sore thumb sticking out.

chart

And yet…

This data runs contra to other January data.

According to Commerce Department data, auto sales gained in January over December.

chart

Other measures also indicate robust January car sales.

Here’s a chart of auto shipments via rail put on Twitter by @bourbon_meyer.

chart

Does anyone have a good guess for what’s amiss here?

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