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US: January retail sales increase by 3.8%, above forecasts

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Retail sales, an important indicator within the US growth and demand inflation trajectory, increased by 3.8% on a headline and core basis, and 4.8% on a control group basis, a metric that excludes volatile food services, automobiles, gasoline and construction materials directly related to growth. With most of the pandemic stimulus payments coming to an end, we need to look again at organic spending trends as disposable personal income returns to its pre-recession trend. Here, of course, incomes and inflation balance come into play. The disposable personal income effect is still negative in real terms.

 

Despite the leading indicators showing that the US economy was affected by the increase in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant in January, it should not be ignored that there are different data trends regarding this impact. Of course, another variable that sets a measure of increase in retail sales is the price phenomenon as well as unit sales. The increase in prices within the scope of inflation causes the rates to be felt higher. Data performance can therefore be exaggerated. It is worth noting that the US manufacturing sector and services have been affected by disruptions to the Omicron variant, with prices rising.

 

If we look at the sub-items; The 5.7% increase in unit car sales in January appears to have outweighed any omicron-related weakness elsewhere. The main issue here is the supply problems caused by the chip shortage and the supply lagging behind the demand feeding the inflationary pressure in the sector. The decline in restaurant sales due to the rise of the variant is much shallower than in previous Covid outbreaks. In terms of inflation, the decrease in food and beverage services is 0.9% on a monthly basis. Furniture and household goods increased by 7.2%, while electronics increased by 1.9%. While there was a 0.7% increase in clothing, the decrease in sports equipment was 3%. As items that will be directly associated with the pandemic, a 0.7% decrease in health and a 1.3% decrease in gasoline are observed. We see an increase of 3.6% in store sales and 14.5% in online sales.

 

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It should be noted that inflationary data or strong data will not add anything new to the Fed’s perception. The 50 basis point rate hike in March still seems certain by the market. But soft data could lead to some softening of perception. We may get more detailed signals of the aggressive tightening cycle in the FOMC minutes. Retail sales are not only related to demand, but also include inflation at the same intensity and it is useful to calculate that there is no correction effect in it.

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