Retail Sales Up – Not Impacted by Fuel Costs

Retail sales were up in February 2011 and contributions from rising fuel prices were negligible.  Because of the distorting affects of the Great Recession, it is hard to quantify exactly how much retail sales improved in February 2011, but they were improved.  From the Census Bureau report:

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for February, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $387.1 billion, an increase of 1.0 percent(±0.5%) from the previous month, and 8.9 percent (±0.7%) above February 2010. Total sales for the December 2010 through February 2011 period were up 8.2 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The December 2010 to January 2011 percent change was revised from +0.3 percent (±0.5%)* to +0.7 percent (±0.3%).

Retail trade sales were up 0.9 percent (±0.5%) from January 2011, and 9.5 percent (±0.7%) above last year. Auto and other motor vehicle dealers sales were up 25.9 percent (±2.5%) from February 2010 and gasoline stations sales were up 12.9 percent (±1.7%) from last year.

The advance estimates are based on a subsample of the Census Bureau’s full retail and food services sample. A stratified random sampling method is used to select approximately 5,000 retail and food services firms whose sales are then weighted and benchmarked to represent the complete universe of over three million retail and food services firms. Responding firms account for approximately 65% of the MARTS dollar volume estimate.

Econintersect uses unadjusted data in its analysis.  The normal range of changes between January and February are +/-  $5 billion.  Plus $1.5 billion is above the normal median.  It is a positive that YoY increase is 9% in February, while the improvement was only 7% in January.   Bottom line – Econintersect estimate for retail sales improvement is roughly the same as the US Census.

Analysis shows the strength is similar whether fuel sales are included or excluded as the amount spent in February on gasoline was less then January, and was in the normal range for MoM variance.  Thus there was little impact of rising gasoline prices in these numbers.

The February retail sales data looks stronger to Econintersect than did the January data.

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