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March Retail Sales Rose 4.5% YOY

16 April 2018

Fears of a trade war between China and the United States have roiled financial markets.

NRF reported a 0.3% annual gain on a seasonally-adjusted basis from February to March, with annual retail sales in March up 5%. Retail sales in March increased 4.5 percent from a year ago. The market analysts are looking for consensus of 0.4% increase compared to a decline of 0.1% in the prior month. Economists had expected retail sales to rise by 0.4 percent. Refunds from 2017 returns may have also given retail sales a boost in March. "People were so built up on the economy and tax cuts, but our view is that it's more steady than acceleration".

"The large swing in consumption between February and March is consistent with an important role for household after-tax incomes being restrained and then lifted by a unique pattern of tax refunds and withholdings", said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan in NY.

"Our latest Quarterly Forecast calls for healthy consumer spending through the remainder of 2018, with growth in the neighborhood of 2.5 percent-3.0 percent annualized", added TD Economics. The economy expanded at a 2.9 percent pace in the October-December quarter.

Online and other non-store sales were up 7.6 percent year-over-year and up 0.8 percent over February seasonally adjusted. The results reinforce a Federal Reserve prediction that the declines were transitory, following increased spending after two hurricanes that struck the United States a year ago.

Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 6.1 percent year-over-year but down 0.8 percent from February seasonally adjusted. Bars and restaurants gained 0.4 per cent.

Sporting goods stores were down 0.9 percent year-over-year and down 1.8 percent from February seasonally adjusted.

While the stock market volatility has not yet impacted on consumer spending, it is chipping away at business confidence.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index for April, released Monday, fell one point to 69. The survey's measure of future business conditions dropped to a more than two-year low.

"Overall, consumer spending has been disappointing in 1Q18, which is partially weather-related, but today's report suggests the slowdown was transitory", said James Knightley, Chief International Economist at ING.

March Retail Sales Rose 4.5% YOY