Census: Estimated year-to-year retail sales up by 2.6 percent

The US Census estimated that retail sales in January were $427.8 billion, an increase of about 2.6 percent over the same period last year.

According to the US Census, January retail sales rose an estimated 2.6 percent over the same period in 2013. The agency also noted that between December 2013 and January 2014, there was an estimated .4 percent drop in retail sales.

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its latest nominal read of retail sales for January showing a decrease of 0.4 percent from December, and a gain of 2.6 percent on a year-over-year basis on an aggregate of all items including food, fuel and healthcare services.
Nominal "discretionary" retail sales including home furnishings, home garden and building materials, consumer electronics and department store sales climbed slightly, rising 0.02 percent from December but declining 1.06% below the level seen in January 2013 while, adjusting for inflation, “real” discretionary retail sales declined 0.28 percent on the month and falling 2.77 percent since January 2013.

On a “nominal” basis, there had appeared to be “rough correlation” between strong home value appreciation and strong retail spending preceding the housing bust and an even stronger correlation when home values started to decline.

The following chart shows the year-over-year change to nominal discretionary retail sales and the year-over-year change to nominal the S&P/Case-Shiller Composite home price index since 1993 and since 2000.

As you can see there is, at the very least, a coincidental change to home values and consumer spending during the boom and then the bust, but as home values have continued to decline, retail spending has remained low but has not continued to consistently contract.

Looking at the chart below (click for full-screen dynamic version), adjusted for inflation (CPI for retail sales, CPI “less shelter” for S&P/Case-Shiller Composite) the “rough correlation” between the year-over-year change to the “discretionary” retail sales series and the year-over-year S&P/Case-Shiller Composite series seems now even more significant.

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