Retail Sales Jump

The 1.2% gain in April retail sales shows consumer spending has been much stronger than anyone expected

Overall retail sales jumped 1.2%, and the ex-auto sales rose an equally impressive 1.0%. The figures were even stronger than the already aggressive figures (relative to median estimate) that we were expecting. This, combined with a net upward revision to the level of sales through March, sets a solid trajectory for consumer spending in the second quarter.

Strength was widespread throughout the components. As expected, the gasoline service station component was one of the strongest contributors with a gain of 2.0%. But, given that we were looking for a gain of double that increase, this implies that price swings were even less of a factor boosting overall sales than expected -- implying a much firmer tone in "real" sales. Motor vehicles & parts rose a solid 1.9%, which is in agreement with the strength seen in unit vehicle sales. Several other components revealed gains of over 1%, including building materials, health and personal care, general merchandise, miscellaneous, and non-store retailers.

Overall, consumption and GDP over the past two quarters was much stronger than anyone could have imagined immediately following the attack. This data suggests not only an upward revision to first quarter GDP (to 6.0% from 5.8%), but also that second quarter GDP should top 4.5%.

From Standard & Poor's Global Markets

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