May Retail Sales Miss, Core Retail Sales Unchanged, Control Group Declines

Another swing and a miss for the so-called Q2 GDP surge.

After April data was revised higher, with headline retail sales pushed from 0.1% to 0.5%, and core retail sales ex-autos and gas boosted from -0.1% to 0.3%, May showed a big drop in whatever momentum may have resulted from the March spending spree. As a result May headline retail sales missed expectations of a 0.6% increase, printing at 0.3%, with the entire positive print due to auto and gas sales. Indeed, when looking at core retail sales excluding autos and gas, these were unchanged from April, printing at 0.0%, far below the 0.4% expected.

As the table below shows, segments that saw a decline in May were Electronics stores (again), as well as food and beverage stores, health and personal care, clothing stores, sporting goods stores, restaurants, as well as general merchandise stores. In other words a decline across the board.

As usual, the biggest wildcard is just how accurate and relevant the seasonal adjustment is: the headline change from April to May was a substantial $26 billion, which however was neutered to just $1.5 billion when applying seasonal adjustment factors, which however as the ISM data recently showed, are nothing but a farce.

Finally, and what's worst for GDP calculations, the retail sales control group which goes into GDP calculations showed the first sequential decline since January when the full brunt of the "harsh weather" which is now said to have subtracted 2.0% from Q1 GDP hit. Clearly, US consumers are still delaying all those purchases they would have otherwise made in January.

Just blame it on the blamy balmy May weather.


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