The retail sales numbers reported yesterday by the US Census Bureau leads us to the false belief that the numbers are actually quite good, since the 0.2% increase in March numbers was slightly better than the 0.1% increase analysts had predicted. A deeper dive analysis reveals that the situation is actually not as glamorous as many publications had reported:
- The reported numbers reflected the large gain in sales at gasoline service stations. Sales in most categories were quite bleak. For example, sales at general merchandise stores fell by 0.6% while specialty stores were down 0.5%.
- Although the month-to-month change looks good, a view of the Q1 change versus previous years shows a significant slowdown in growth since 2007. (See chart below; click to enlarge.)
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