Retail Sales Drop Far From Uniform

Despite an overall drop, spending on autos, clothing and other items rose last month.
Ed ZwirnMarch 13, 2001

If it seems like certain members of your household are shopping more than ever, you are not alone.

Despite the release this morning of preliminary numbers showing a decline in retail sales for February, the outlook is mixed. Auto sales were up slightly, and non-durables didn’t budge.

The biggest exception to the downturn was seen in sales of general merchandise, clothing and accessories.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, department stores, excluding the parts they lease out, saw sales rise 7.6 percent in February.

This was exceeded only by apparel and accessory stores, which saw sales jump by 8.4 percent.

This morning’s release by the Commerce Department showed February retail sales down a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent, versus forecasts of a 0.4 percent increase. Excluding autos, retail sales fell 0.3 percent, compared to predictions of a 0.1 percent rise.

On a non-adjusted basis, retail trade fell 0.7 percent in February. Excluding autos, the drop was 2.1 percent.

Despite the bad news and its timing just ahead of a March 20 Federal Open Market Committee meeting, this morning’s numbers have had little impact on bonds.

Rate cut or no, Treasuries were slipping this morning, responding more than anything else to profit taking in the wake of yesterday’s stock- market-induced “flight to quality” gains.

The yield on the two-year Treasury stood at 4.39 percent as of 10:45 a.m. EST, versus yesterday afternoon’s 4.37 percent, while the 10-year note was yielding 4.92 percent, versus 4.89 percent.

Click here for the Department of Commerce’s complete retail sales report.

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