This morning’s retail sales report was a dud. The Street had been expecting an increase of 0.1%. Instead, retail sales fell 0.3% last month. This could be evidence that consumers are pulling back.
While nine of 13 major categories showed gains last month, those increases weren’t large enough to offset the drop in autos, clothing and restaurants.
Automobile dealers’ sales dropped 2.1 percent in March, the biggest decrease since February 2015. That was in line with industry data earlier this month that showed the torrid pace of car demand was leveling off. Purchases of cars and light trucks grew at a 16.5 million annualized rate in March, the slowest in more than a year, according to Ward’s Automotive Group.
Economists like to focus on “core” retail sales, which excludes cars and gas stations. Here the Street had been expecting a 0.3%, but core sales rose by just 0.1%.
The retail report showed sales decreased 0.9 percent at clothing chains, the biggest retreat since October, and a 0.8 percent drop at restaurants and bars.
Another report showed that wholesales prices fell 0.1% last month. Economists had been expecting an increase of 0.2%. We’ll get the consumer price index report tomorrow.