Retail sales dropped in February but gasoline prices are not to blame-rather auto sales. Retail sales in February declined 0.6 percent after decreasing 0.8 percent in January. The market consensus for February was for 0.3 percent gain. As expected from unit new auto sales data, auto sales dropped 2.5 percent, following a 0.5 percent rise in January. Excluding autos, sales decreased 0.1 percent, following a 1.1 percent drop in January. Analysts projected a 0.5 percent increase. Gasoline sales actually partially rebounded 1.5 percent in February after dropping 9.8 percent the month before. Excluding both autos and gasoline sales fell 0.2 percent after slipping 0.1 percent in January. Expectations were for a 0.5 percent increase.

Some components may have been weak due to winter weather and a stay at home attitude. Declines were seen in furniture & home furnishings, electronics, building materials & garden equipment, health & personal care, general merchandise, miscellaneous, and food services & drinking places.

Gains were seen in food & beverage, sporting goods & etc. and nonstore retailers (largely Internet sales).

The latest consumer sector numbers are curious. Confidence is still moderately high, discretionary income is moderately high, but spending is sluggish. Today’s numbers will nudge down estimates for first quarter GDP growth.