October Was Better for Retailers: November 12 – 16

Retail sales regained strength in October.  Here are the five things we learned from U.S. economic data released during the week ending November 16.

#1Retail sales expanded in October following declines during the two previous months. The Census Bureau estimates U.S. retail and food services sales were at a seasonally adjusted $511.5 billion during the month, up 0.8 percent from September and 4.6 percent from a year earlier. This follows declines of 0.2 percent and 0.1 percent in August and September, respectively (both representing downward revisions from their previously reported sales levels). Much of October gain came in the form of strong sales at auto dealers/parts stores (+1.1 percent) and gas stations (+3.5 percent, mostly due to higher prices at the pump). Net of both, core retail sales gained 0.3 percent in October following a flat month in September. Core retail sales have risen 4.7 percent over the past 12 months. Experiencing sales increases were department stores (+1.3 percent) and retailers focused on building materials (+1.0 percent), electronics/appliances (+0.7 percent), apparel (+0.5 percent), sporting goods (+0.5 percent), and groceries (+0.2 percent). Sales slowed at furniture retailers (-0.3 percent) and restaurants/bars (-0.2 percent).Retail Sales 2017-8 11162018

#2Manufacturing production gains in October matched that of September. The Federal Reserve indicates that manufacturing output grew 0.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis during the month, matching September’s increase and just off August’s 0.4 percent gain. Production of durables increased 0.5 percent (even as that of automobiles declined 2.5 percent) while nondurables output rose 1.8 percent (boosted by chemicals, textiles, and paper). Manufacturing output has expanded 2.7 percent over the past year. Overall industrial production inched up by only 0.1 percent, its smallest gain since May (when industrial output had contracted by 0.8 percent) but still 4.1 percent ahead of the year-ago pace. Output fell at both the utilities (-0.5 percent) and mining (-0.3 percent) sectors.

#3Consumer prices firmed in October. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis during the month, the biggest jump for the Bureau of Labor Statistics measure since January and following a more modest 0.1 percent increase in September. Energy prices gained 2.4 percent, boosted by higher prices for fuel oil (+3.7 percent), gasoline (+3.0 percent), and electricity (+2.3 percent). Food prices slipped 0.1 percent, pulled down by declines for fruits/vegetables, cereals/bakery products, and dairy goods. Net of energy and food, core CPI grew 0.2 percent, following two consecutive 0.1 percent increases. Rising were prices for used cars/trucks (+2.6 percent), shelter (+0.2 percent), medical care services (+0.2 percent), apparel (+0.1 percent), and transportation services (+0.1 percent). Headline CPI has risen 2.5 percent over the past year, while the 12-month comparable for core CPI is +2.1 percent).

#4Small business owners remained chipper about business conditions in October. The Small Business Optimism Index from the National Federation of Independent Business lost a half point during the month to land at a seasonally adjusted 107.4 (1986=100). Even with the decline, the measure of small business owners’ sentiment was 3.8 points above its year-ago reading and places the index above a reading of 100 for 23 consecutive months. Only one of the index’s ten components improved during the month: plans to expand inventories. Taking a step back during October were index components related to whether it is a good time to expand, earning trends, plans to increase employment, expected sales, and current inventories.

#5The U.S. government ran up a huge budget deficit during the first month of FY2019. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service reports that U.S. government receipts totaled $252.7 billion in October (+7.4 percent versus October 2017) while outlays were $353.2 billion (+18.3 percent versus October 2017). The resulting deficit of -$100.5 billion was 59.0 percent larger than that of October 2017. Among the areas driving the rise in expenditures were Social Security, interest payments on the debt, defense, and Veteran Affairs. Note that the timing of receipts and spending can vary sharply month-to-month and some of the difference with year-to-year comparisons may reflect when certain days fall on the calendar (e.g., a certain day is on a weekend).

Other U.S. economic data released over the past week:
Jobless Claims (week ending November 10, 2018, First-Time Claims, seasonally adjusted): 216,000 (+2,000 vs. previous week; -34,000 vs. the same week a year earlier). 4-week moving average: 215,250 (-9.8% vs. the same week a year earlier).
State Employment (October 2018, Nonfarm Employment, seasonally adjusted): Payrolls grew in 9 states and were essentially unchanged in 41 states and the District of Columbia vs. September 2018. Payrolls grew in 36 states and were essentially unchanged in 14 states and the District of Columbia vs. September 2018.
Import Prices (October 2018, All Imports, not seasonally adjusted): +0.5% vs. September 2018, +3.5% vs. October 2017. Nonfuel Imports: +0.2% vs. September 2018, +0.7% vs. October 2017.
Export Prices (October 2018, All Exports, not seasonally adjusted): +0.4% vs. September 2018, +3.1% vs. October 2017. Nonagricultural Exports: +0.5% vs. September 2018, +3.9% vs. October 2017
Business Inventories (September 2018, Manufacturer’s and Trade Inventories, seasonally adjusted): $1.968 trillion (+0.3% vs. August 2018, +4.4% vs. September 2017).
Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey (October 2018) 

The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Kevin’s current employer. No endorsements are implied.

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