Advance Retail Sales – United States

Monthly measure of sales of goods to consumers at retail outlets. The figure is a significant market mover, valuable both for its timeliness and insight into consumer demand and consumer confidence. Consumer spending is vital to the US economy, accounting for more than two-thirds of all economic activity. Given that retail sales make up a hefty one third of such spending, the Advanced Retail Sales figure acts as a measure of consumer demand before GDP is released.

The figure has its limits, though. For instance, the timely release of the report comes at the cost of volatility in the figures and significant monthly revisions. It is not unusual for the figure to come out positive one month, only to be subsequently revised as negative. Retail Sales can also be volatile due to seasonality. Additionally, the report has been criticized for excluding service sector sales and failing to adjust for inflation. Despite these drawbacks, the figure still moves the market on release, mainly because of the importance of consumer spending to the US economy.

The Retail Sales figure is calculated as the total receipts of retail sales in nominal dollars based on a sample of stores throughout the month – returns, taxes and finance charges are excluded. It appears in the headlines as the annualize percentage change from the previous month.

Advance Retail Sales Less Autos

The Retail Sales figure is also reported excluding automobile sales. Given their high cost, auto sales contribute significantly to retails sales, comprising nearly a quarter of the figure. As a result, changes in automobile sales can produce high fluctuations in the retails sales report. Vehicle sales are prone to seasonal changes, thereby easily distorting retail sales trends. To provide a more accurate picture of retail sales the auto component is removed and followed more closely.

Relevance: Tends to move markets on release
Release schedule : 8:30 AM (EST); monthly, midmonth and approximately two weeks following the reporting month’s end
Revisions schedule : Significant month to month revisions to adjust for data that was unavailable at the time of the original release. No adjustments are made for inflation.
Source of report : Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
Web Address : http://www.census.gov/
Address of release : http://www.census.gov/svsd/www/advtable.html
AKA : Monthly Advanced Retail Trade Survey, MARTS, Retail Sales Less Autos

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