Consumer confidence may be strong but it still is not translating to strength for consumer spending. Retail sales were unchanged in April. Excluding autos, sales did rise but only barely at plus 0.1 and below expectations for 0.5 percent, while excluding both autos and gasoline, sales rose 0.2 percent vs expectations for a 0.4 percent gain.
The surprising part of the report isn’t the weakness in motor vehicles, which was signaled by weak unit sales and which fell 0.4 percent in the month, but weakness in some of the core readings including department stores which fell a very steep 2.2 percent and electronics & appliances which fell 0.4 percent for a 7th straight decline. Both furniture and food & beverages also show declines.
Year-on-year rates show just how weak growth in the retail sector has been. Total retail sales are up only 0.9 percent year-on-year, down from 1.7 percent in March. This is the lowest rate since late 2009. Excluding motor vehicles, year-on-year sales are unchanged, again the lowest reading since late 2009. Ex-auto ex-gas, sales are up a respectable 3.4 percent but, compared to 3.9 percent in March, are going in the wrong direction.