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Retail Sales: Plunge in Activity in April

May 15, 2020

Bottom Line: Total retail spending plunged in April as shutdowns for the novel coronavirus took place across much of the country. The numbers are historically unprecedented in almost all segments of this report. As we knew, gasoline and auto sales led declines at the headline level. But in many segments sales were down nearly 50 - 80% month-over-month with the last three months annualizing to quarterly declines of nearly 100%. Nonstore retailers (internet) were the lone gainers. Particularly hard hit were furniture, electronics, clothing, and sporting goods stores. Even food and beverage stores (grocery) saw declines in April after consumers stocked up in March. While these figures are just one month of the quarter, they will likely push early estimates for 2nd Quarter GDP even lower (Bloomberg consensus is -27.5% qoq SAAR).

Retail Sales FELL by 16.4% in April, compared with the market consensus for a decrease of 12.0%. The March estimate was revised from -8.73% to -8.31%. Retail sales are now 21.6% BELOW their year-ago level; just a year ago, the year over year growth rate was 3.9%. Spending at motor vehicle dealers fell by 12.4%.

Core Retail Sales FELL by -17.2%, compared with the market consensus for a decrease of 8.5%. The March estimate was revised from -4.50% to -3.97%. Core retail sales are now 18.8% BELOW their year-ago level; just a year ago, the year over year growth rate was 4.1%.

In April, gains at nonstore retailers (+8.4%), were more than offset by declines in general merchandise stores (-20.8%), grocery stores (-13.1%), gasoline stations, primarily due to low gasoline prices (-28.8%), clothing stores (-78.8%.

Core Retail Sales ex Gasoline FELL by 16.17% and are now 16.0% BELOW their year-ago level; just a year ago, the year over year growth rate was a moderate 4.1%

Article by Contingent Macro Advisors