Economic Notes for the Week of March 18th

(+) The most heavily-looked at report last week, retail sales, registered a stronger-than-expected result for February, up +1.1% versus a consensus estimate of +0.5%.  The headline figure was aided by a +5.0% gain in gas station sales (in line with higher gasoline prices).  Auto sales and building materials, both cyclical and choppy month-to-month, were up +1.1% and helped the overall results.  The next level of ‘cleaned-up’ data, retail sales ex-autos, gained a still-respectable +1.0% that beat the expected +0.5%.  Lastly, the ‘core/control’ retail sales number (which excludes autos, gasoline and building materials, and represents the figure that corresponds most closely to the consumer spending segment of the quarterly GDP report) gained +0.4%, double the expected +0.2% increase.  In addition, increases were broad, with strong results in ‘general merchandise,’ food/beverage and online sales.  What this tells us is that purchasing activity continues to improve—despite some fears of slowing due to this year’s payroll tax increases.  While still fairly low, this remains a tailwind in our favor. Read more