Commerce and NRF report mixed February retail sales

Jeannie Matthews
March 15, 2018

Nonstore Retailers were up 10.1% from February 2017, while Gasoline Stations were up 7.9% from past year. "Month-to-month comparisons don't tell the whole story because of seasonal adjustment factors, but the three-month moving average and other year-over-year numbers are better indicators that reflect how sales are really increasing".

Retail trade sales were down 0.1% from January 2018, but 4.2% above a year ago.

"Consumers are still in the driver's seat", NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

According to data released by the Commerce Department, U.S. retail sales fell in February for a third straight month unexpectedly. For example, many households experienced delays in receiving tax refunds early this year, giving them less money to spend in January and February relative to prior years.

Consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of USA economic activities, slowed down in the first two months of 2018 after a booming quarter at the end of 2017.

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The three-month moving average was also up 4.4 percent over the same period a year ago, and the results come as NRF is forecasting that 2018 retail sales will grow between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent over 2017.

Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 5.2 percent year-over-year and up 0.4 percent from January seasonally adjusted. As usual, Internet-based sales continued to climb, up 1 percent for the month, and 10.1 percent for the year.

Sporting goods stores, down 3.4% year-over-year but up 2.2% from January seasonally adjusted. Furniture stores suffered a drop in sales for the month of 0.8 percent, and department stores lost 0.9 percent of their sales.

Economists estimate the economy is growing at a roughly 2% pace in the first quarter, down slightly from the fourth quarter and below the roughly 3% pace registered in the middle of previous year.

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