Retail Sales Decelerate, Rise 0.1% As Expected; Control Group Disappoints

Followng yesterday's disturbing debit and credit card spending report from Bank of America for February which showed broad based declines across most categories, and a collapse in Department Store sales, the whisper expectation for today's retail sales report was for a contraction.

Instead, perhaps courtesy of the traditional aggressive seasonal adjustments, the Census Bureau announced moments ago that retail sales printed largely in line, rising 0.1% in February, in line with consensus, but below last month's 0.4% growth. Similarly retail sales ex autos rose 0.2%, also on top of expectations, although the rate of increase slowed down from last month's 0.8%.

The only disappointment came in the retail sales "control group", which printed at 0.1%, missing expectations of a 0.2% increase.

Among the segments reporting a slowdown in retail sales were motor vehicles and parts dealers, which dropped 0.2%, as well as gasoline stations which declined 0.6% mostly as a result of a modest pullback in gasoline prices. Sporting goods and music stores, Department Stores and Food Service and drinking places all declined, by -0.4%, -1.1% and -0.1% respectively. However, the biggest drop came from electronics and appliance stores, where sales tumbled a whopping -2.8%

While hardly as dramatic, the ongoing deterioration in department store spending is a partial confirmation of primary card data revealed yesterday courtesy of Bank of America, as shown previously.

And, as usual, the silver lining in today's retail sales report was the increase in nonstore retailers, i.e. internet retail outlets like Amazon, which posted a 1.2% increase in January, and 13% Y/Y, as they continue to grab market share from traditional brick and mortar venues.