Economy Watch: Retail Sales Up in April

Sales in the non-store retail sector, which includes pure-play e-commerce, increased by 12% in April to $51.4 billion, the thirteenth straight month of double-digit increases.

Sales at merchants of electronics and appliances rose 1.3 per cent in April after a 2.2 per cent jump. That is a major number and clearly can not be overlooked, especially when looking at how closely connected retail and consumer activity is tied to the freight transportation and logistics sectors on so many fronts, including trucking, intermodal, parcel, ocean, air, and e-commerce.

Non-store retailers-which is what the bureau calls Internet sales-were up 1.4 percent for the month, which is consistent with growth for that kind of retail. Factor out auto sales, and total retail sales for the month were up 0.3 percent. Core prices have risen 1.9 percent. Gasoline stations sales were up 12.3% from April 2016, while Nonstore Retailers were up 11.9% from a year ago.

With motor vehicles and gas stripped out, sales were up 0.3%, after a 0.4% increase in March. Gauges of consumer and business confidence remain high following last year's presidential election; the University of Michigan's index of consumer sentiment was up 9% in April compared with a year earlier.

Shares in JC Penney sank 10% after it became the latest department store chain to report disappointing results. And inflation has ticked up, eroding most of that wage gain.

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Friday's report excluded consumer spending on most services, including medical care and housing.

Spending was uneven across other categories last month.

The Labor Department said that U.S. consumer prices increased by 0.2% in April, following a 0.3% fall in the previous month, taking the annual rate to 2.2%.

"Retail sales increased a solid 0.4% in April, better than the slim 0.1% gain in March but not the breakout performance markets had hoped to see", she commented in a research note. "Yet, with April sales a bit weaker than anticipated, we are trimming our projected of annualized growth in real consumer spending during the second quarter from 3.4% to 3.1%".


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