Friday, October 1, 2010

Economics 1/10/10: Retail sales data

Oh, let's cut the bull, folks. The retail sales data is making rounds the banks 'economists' notes with all the hoopla of the 'positive news' arguments. So things are turning corners?.. Actually, not really.

With motors:
  • Value of sales rose 1.3% mom in August and a re down 1.7% yoy;
  • Volume of sales was up 1.1% mom and 1.3% yoy

Conclusion, with motors included, we are still selling more stuff at ever-lower prices, though this time around declines in prices did not outpace increases in volume. Which means that no jobs are being created. If we take on board the fact that Euro remains relatively weak compared to last year vis-a-vis our main trading partners outside the Euro zone, implying we are buying imports at a higher price, the margins in retail sector gotta be shrinking even more than the volume/value gap above suggests. Which, in turn, implies that there aren't any new jobs being created in the retail sector on the back of the latest 'turnaround'. The whole thing about 'great news on retail sales front' is a damp squib.

And if you want to see even deeper into the official spin, take a look at ex-motors retailing:
  • Value of core sales was flat mom in August and is down 3.6% yoy;
  • Volume of core sales was up 0.2% mom and 1.4% yoy
So declines outpacing volume increases is clearly operative here.

Dig deeper and take a look at the breakdown of sales across main business lines.
  • The largest increases in value took place in Books, Newspapers & Stationary (+4.7%). Given all the great news we've heard about Ireland in August, this is hardly surprising.
  • Second largest value increase (ex-motors) mom took place in... errr... Fuel (+4.5%). That wouldn't be an indicator of our consumer confidence in the future, but the price increases in the sector where prices are controlled by the Government.
  • Durables continued to tank: Electrical goods (-3.2% value and -2.5% volume mom), Furniture and Lighting (-1.% and -0.7% respectively) - again, not a great sign.
The worst part of this data is that it continues to show that there is no restart to household investment in sight. Before the households begin investing, they will usually start consuming more durable goods. This is clearly not happening.

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