Economic Notes for the Week of February 18th

(0) Retail sales on a headline level came in close to consensus, with a +0.1% gain for January.  When sales ex-automobiles were removed, the growth bumped to +0.2%, which was a tenth of a percent better than expected.  Lastly, the ‘core/control’ number (which attempts to normalize things by excluding cyclical autos, gasoline stations and building materials—per what the government uses in their GDP calculations) rose +0.1% for the month, which was lower than the forecast +0.3%.  In the core figure, ‘misc.’ retailers such as office supply were down over two percent, while department stores were stronger by roughly a percentage point.  Net-net, despite payroll tax hike effects, it appears this year has begun decently in the retail sales arena, albeit with relatively flat numbers.

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