Retail Sales Up 0.6% In August, Worse Than Forecast

The Census Bureau's Advance Retail Sales Report for August was released this morning. Headline sales came in at 0.6% month-over-month to one decimal and was below the forecast of 1.0%. Core sales (ex Autos) came in at 0.7% MoM.

Here is the introduction from today's report:

Statement Regarding COVID-19 Impact: Due to recent events surrounding COVID-19, many businesses are operating on a limited capacity or have ceased operations completely. The Census Bureau has monitored response and data quality and determined estimates in this release meet publication standards. For more information on the compilation of this month's report, see <COVID-19 FAQs>.

Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for July 2020, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $536.0 billion, an increase of 1.2 percent (± 0.5 percent) from the previous month, and 2.7 percent (± 0.7 percent) above July 2019. Total sales for the May 2020 through July 2020 period were down 0.2 percent (± 0.5 percent)* from the same period a year ago. The May 2020 to June 2020 percent change was revised from up 7.5 percent (± 0.5 percent) to up 8.4 percent (± 0.2 percent).

Retail trade sales were up 0.8 percent (± 0.5 percent) from June 2020, and 5.8 percent (± 0.7 percent) above last year. Nonstore retailers were up 24.7 percent (± 1.4 percent) from July 2019, while food and beverage stores were up 11.1 percent (± 0.9 percent) from last year. [view full report]

The chart below is a log-scale snapshot of retail sales since the early 1990s. The two exponential regressions through the data help us to evaluate the long-term trend of this key economic indicator.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Retail Sales Trends

The year-over-year percent change provides another perspective on the historical trend. Here is the headline series.

(Click on image to enlarge)

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Moon Kil Woong 1 month ago Contributor's comment

Frankly I'm amazed that it didn't fall back. Beyond pent up demand due to Corona, I don't expect anything more until the US gets its act together and lowers Covid cases permanently at least. That is unless they stop dreaming of a vaccine and get drugs that reduce this to not be life threatening or disables you with reduce lung capacity, heart effects, strokes, and blood clots.