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U.S. Retail Sales (Unexpectedly) Drops as Jobs Evaporate

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  • U.S. Retail Sales (Unexpectedly) Drops as Jobs Evaporate

    Again, unexpectedly. I guess the government's "boosting of the economy" by raising food stamp benefits and purchasing 17,000+ vehicles has not kicked in yet. :rolleyes:

    U.S. Retail Sales Unexpectedly Drop as Jobs Evaporate (Update2)

    By Bob Willis

    April 14 (Bloomberg) -- Retail sales in the U.S. unexpectedly fell in March as soaring job losses forced consumers to pull back.

    The 1.1 percent decrease followed a 0.3 percent gain in February that was stronger than previously estimated, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. Auto dealers, electronics stores and restaurants led the decline.

    Less consumer spending heading into the second quarter means the recession is likely to persist. Still, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said today there are signs that the “sharp decline” in the U.S. economy is slowing, indicating a potential “first step” toward recovery.

    “While the March data isn’t enough to make us rethink expectations that the worst is over, it does serve as a reminder that the road out of this recession might be as painful as the recession itself,” Guy Lebas, chief economist with Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia, said in an email.

    Another government report showed prices paid to U.S. producers unexpectedly fell in March after two months of gains, indicating the recession is keeping inflation under control.

    The 1.2 percent decrease followed a 0.1 percent gain in February, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington. Excluding fuel and food, so-called core prices were unchanged. Over the last 12 months, wholesale expenses fell by the most in almost six decades.

    Stock Futures Drop

    Stock-index futures dropped after the reports, with futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index down 0.9 percent as of 9:04 a.m. in New York. Treasuries rose, pushing yields lower. The benchmark 10-year note yielded 2.82 percent, down 4 basis points from yesterday.

    Bernanke, in prepared remarks for a speech today in Atlanta, said he is “fundamentally optimistic about our economy.”

    Today’s economic conditions are difficult, but the foundations of our economy are strong, and we face no problems that cannot be overcome with insight, patience, and persistence,” he said. :rolleyes:

    Retail sales were projected to rise 0.3 percent in March after an originally reported 0.1 percent decline the prior month, according to the median estimate of 73 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. Forecasts ranged from a decline of 0.2 percent to a gain of 1.2 percent.

    Incentives Fail

    The retail sales figures indicated incentives and promotions by car dealers and clothing stores such as Gap Inc. failed to draw customers hurt by a lack of credit and the highest jobless rate in 25 years.

    Excluding automobiles, sales decreased 0.9 percent after a 1 percent gain in February. They were forecast to show no change, according to the survey median.

    In addition to rising unemployment, a late Easter holiday this year may have shifted sales out of March and into April, some economists said. Shifting holidays make it more difficult for Commerce to take into account seasonal buying patterns when tabulating purchases.

    Sales at automobile dealers and parts stores dropped 2.3 percent after falling 3 percent in February. The government’s figures don’t always correlate with industry reports issued earlier this month.

    Auto Sales

    Autos sold at an average 9.5 million annual rate in the first quarter, the weakest performance since 1982. General Motors Corp., the largest U.S. carmaker, may be forced to file for bankruptcy in the event it can’t reach accords with labor and bondholders for $13.4 billion in federal aid.

    In addition to electronics stores and restaurants, sellers of furniture, building materials, clothing, and sporting goods all posted declines. The 1.4 percent decrease in receipts at restaurants and bars was the biggest since March 2005.

    Only grocery and health-care stores saw an increase in sales last month.

    Service stations also posted a drop in purchases even as fuel prices climbed, indicating Americans may be cutting down on driving.

    Excluding autos, gasoline and building materials, the retail group the government uses to calculate gross domestic product figures for consumer spending, sales dropped 0.9 percent, reversing the previous month’s 0.9 percent gain. The government uses data from other sources to calculate the contribution from the three categories excluded.

    Clothing retailers such as Limited Brands Inc. and Gap Inc. reported March same-store sales fell less than forecast as spring promotions drew some buyers.


    General-merchandise discounters had mixed results. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, reported comparable- store sales rose while sales at Costco Wholesale Corp. stores open at least a year fell 5 percent.

    Consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy, probably rose at a 0.5 percent rate in the first quarter, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg last week. Purchases fell by an average 4 percent rate in the second half of 2008, the longest slide since 1991.

    Still the largest part of the economy is projected to falter again this quarter, contracting at a 0.5 percent pace, as job losses mount.

    The first quarter gain will help slow the decline in growth. The world’s largest economy shrank at a 5 percent pace in the first three months of the year, following a 6.3 percent rate of contraction in the previous quarter that was the worst performance since 1982, according to the survey last week.

    Recessions here and abroad mean inflation will “remain subdued,” the Federal Open Market Committee said March 18. For that reason, the central bankers added that the target interest rate will remain at “low levels” for “an extended period.”