Retail sales in the US were down 0.7% in February, when seasonally adjusted from January. However, the sales were up 2.7% unadjusted year-over-year as delays and revisions related to the government shutdown continued to make comparisons difficult, indicates the National Retail Federation (NRF). The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.
“The weaker-than-expected February retail sales numbers reflect colder weather and increased precipitation that kept shoppers home, but were also skewed downward because of the government’s upward revision in January’s results,” explains NRF chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz. “The aftereffects of the erratic stock market, the government shutdown and slower tax refunds this year also likely played a role. It is important to look beyond the February figures and focus on the very significant revision to January retail sales, which shows that the consumer has not forsaken the economy as some previously claimed. We still expect growth to pick up, fuelled by strong fundamentals like job and wage growth that are driving increased consumer spending. The consumer will continue to provide direction and strength to the US economy in the months ahead.”
As of February, the three-month moving average was up 2.2% over the same period a year ago. February’s results build on improvement seen in January, which was up 1.9% monthly and 4.8% year-over-year. January had originally been reported as a 1.3% increase over December and up 3.6% year-over-year.
These results come as NRF is forecasting that retail sales during 2019 will increase between 3.8% and 4.4% to more than $3.8 trillion. The forecast is subject to revision as more data is released in the coming months.