Retail sales for the month of March were released earlier this morning and came in weaker than expected across the board. On a headline basis, retail sales actually fell 0.3% compared to forecasts for a m/m gain of 0.1%. Most of this weakness was due to Autos, and after backing out that category, sales grew 0.2%, but that was still below the consensus expectation of 0.4%. Ex Autos and Gas, sales increased 0.1%, which was also weaker than the 0.3% estimate. While March’s numbers missed the mark, the weakness was somewhat offset by upward revisions to February’s numbers.
One notable aspect of this month’s report was the strength in Building Materials. While overall retail sales have been steadily trending lower on a y/y basis for several years now (blue line), the chart for Building Materials (red line) has been bucking the trend considerably. In fact, through March’s report, the gap between the y/y change between the two series was over nine percentage points. The only time the gap between the two has been wider was back in March and April of 2004.
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