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Yesterday's release of US retail sales surprised the markets in a negative way. US retail sales continued to disappoint in June. For a third consecutive month, retail sales dropped in June, while the consensus was looking for a slight rebound. On a monthly basis, retail sales dropped by 0.5%, while an increase by 0.2% was forecast. The details show that weakness was broad based. As expected, gasoline station sales dropped sharply for a third straight month. Also sales of motor vehicles and parts fell in June, while the consensus was looking for a significant increase.
As a result, retail sales excluding autos and gas fell by -0.2% less than the headline figure. Weakness was also based in furniture, electronics, building materials, health & personal care, sporting goods, eating and drinking and general merchandise. Sales of clothing (0.2% MM), non-store retailing (0.5% MM) and food and beverages rose in June. The control group, which is important for the GDP data, fell by 0.1% MM, after staying broadly stable in May. It is a really disappointing retail sales report, both in the headline figure and the details, confirming that US consumer are again more cautious in their spending. In the third quarter as a whole retail sales are down, which will lead to downward revisions in Q2 GDP estimates.
After two consecutive declines, the NY Empire State manufacturing index showed a slight uptick in July. Many economists think this was a statistical anomaly and need more conclusive data or additional results before accepting a change in manufacturing.
The headline figure rose from 2.29 to 7.39; while the consensus was looking for a more moderate increase (to 4.00). The details are more mixed. Shipments (10.28 from 4.81), inventories (0.00 from -8.25) and number of employees (18.52 from 12.37) improved this month, while new orders (-2.69 from 2.18), delivery time (-1.23 from 0.00), unfilled orders (-13.57 from -5.15) and average workweek (0.00 from 3.09) worsened in July. Priced paid eased further, from 19.59 to 7.41, while prices received picked up from 1.03 to 3.70, suggesting that firms are gaining pricing power. Overall, while the headline figure looks encouraging at first sight, the details are less so.
Especially the decline in new orders is a poor sign for the months to come and suggests that manufacturers in the region are not yet out of the woods.
Investors are hoping continued weak eco data will stoke the fires of Ben Bernanke and see the Fed's pullout the big guns. The Chairman will begin his testimony at the US congress today and markets are hoping for some direction as to their thinking.