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By the Numbers

Featuring brief segments of economic analysis from our senior economist Michael Bazdarich, PhD.

The economic analysis we previously featured in By the Numbers is now available on the Western Asset Blog. This page will no longer be updated.

July Retail Sales Data Show Steady, Lackluster Growth

With last month's sharp June gains in retail sales, we concluded that there was enough spring sales improvement to almost fully offset the winter weakness, but no more. On net, on average, 2014 sales through June were right in line with the tepid growth trends of 2012 and 2013. Today's July sales news did nothing to alter that assessment.

Today's data featured very slight downward revisions to May and June sales levels, followed by a similarly slight (<0.1%) gain in July. The July gains were about the same whether you look at the headline sales total or various "sliced and diced" versions, such as the "control" measure (excluding gas stations, car dealers and building materials) we typically track.

The chart below tells more of the story. Sales growth is steady with no real hint of weakening, but neither is there any sign of accelerating growth. (And the picture looks the same—albeit with more short-term volatility—if one similarly charts the headline sales number.) Finally, the July improvement in the six-month growth rate (green line) is solely a result of calculating growth off the especially depressed January sales levels.

Last month's release showed strong gains at warehouse stores, with little going on elsewhere. Today's news had those warehouse store sales gains holding into the summer, but revealed especially sluggish sales at durables retailers (electronics, furniture, books/sporting goods) and, again, little change elsewhere.

A lot of economic news has come down the pike in the two weeks since we broke for summer. We'll summarize that news in our next "By the Numbers" offering.

Retail Sales Trends
July Retail Sales Trends Chart
Source: Census Bureau. As of 31 Jul 14. Core retail sales is total sales less vehicle dealers, service stations and building material stores.

Michael Bazdarich

Product Specialist/Economist

Mike brings more than 45 years of experience to his position. "By the Numbers" will address economic data releases that are pertinent to a broad range of investors.

Prior to joining the Firm in 2005, Mike ran his own consulting firm, MB Economics. He earned his PhD in Economics at the University of Chicago.

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