May 16, 2023
US retail sales rose +0.4% m/m in April, after falling the prior two months. Sales were up +1.6% from a year ago, but this is not adjusted for inflation. Given that consumer inflation (CPI) was running at +5.0% y/y in April, this indicates that sales are actually down in real terms.
It’s worth noting that sales at gas stations fell -0.8% m/m in April, down -14.6% from a year ago. Excluding gas stations, retail sales rose +0.5% m/m in April, up +3.3% from a year ago – though still short of holding even with inflation. Note that many other categories of sales outlets (furniture, sporting goods, electronics, grocery, building supplies, clothing, and department stores, along with auto dealers) are down from a year ago. In contrast, pharmacies, restaurants and bars, and e-commerce are up y/y.
Auto sales rose +7.2% m/m in April to an annual rate of 15.9 million per year, up +11.4% from a year ago. Except for a brief surge in early 2021, they remain below pre-pandemic levels.