Friday, May 30, 2014

30/5/2014: Detailed Analysis of Retail Sales for Ireland: April 2014

In the previous post on Retail Sales data, I covered Q2 comparatives across the years ( As promised, here is April data taken on a monthly frequency.

There are several very interesting developments in terms of core retail sales data released earlier this week by CSO. Stay patient as I cover it.

Firstly, from the top level:

  • Current 3mo average for Retail Sales by Value index is at 96.7, which is below 96.9 average for the 3mo period through January 2014. Bad news. However, a ray of sunshine: Value Index did rise on seasonally-adjusted basis to 97.3 in April compared to 95.9 in March.
  • Current 3mo average for Retail Sales by Volume index is at 102.5, which is virtually unchanged on 102.4 average for the 3mo period through January 2014. Neither bad not good news. However, another ray of sunshine: Volume Index did rise on seasonally-adjusted basis to 103.3 in April compared to 101.7 in March.
  • Meanwhile, Consumer Confidence index reported by ESRI averaged 85.3 in 3 months though April 2014, which is blisteringly higher than 78.5 reading recorded across 3 months through January 2014. Bad news: on shorter 3mo average basis, Consumer Confidence continues to go boisterously where actual retail sales are not daring to move.
Chart to illustrate:

Notice the following from the chart above:

  1. Bottoming out on trend in Consumer Confidence took place around Q1 2011. Bottoming out in Volume Index of Retail Sales took place around Q2-Q3 2012. Bottoming out in Value Index of Retail Sales is yet to be established, though it appears that it might have happened around Q4 2013. Thus, Consumer Confidence can at best be a weak indicator for changes in Volume and counter-predictor to changes in Value of Retail Sales
  2. Consumer Confidence is rising much faster, over sustained period of time, than Volume of Retail Sales which itself is outpacing Value of Retail Sales. In other words, even massive and sustained reductions in the retail sector margins are not being able to explain in full the boisterous dynamics in Consumer Confidence.
Now onto my own Retail Sector Activity Index (RSAI), which is a weighted average of 3mo MAs for Volume and Value of Retail Sales Indices and Consumer Confidence:

Couple of things worth noting:

  1. RSAI shows, finally, a breakaway from the flat trend that held the sector down between 2009 and much of 2013. This is good news. The RSAI is now at 111.0 up on 110.6 in March 2014 and on 3mo MA basis it is up from 107.7 over 3 months through January 2014 to 110.7 currently.
  2. RSAI in most recent two months has been visibly slowing down in the rate of growth, despite massive rises in Consumer Confidence. This can signal some weakness coming down the road. Or it might signal temporary slowdown (remember, this is seasonally-adjusted data).
Lastly, let's revisit correlations between various indices. Three tables below summarise:

Core takeaways from the above tables:
  • Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) has now moved into correlation range with Volume of sales that is similar to the one observed prior to the crisis: 0.757 vs 0.741 and this correlation is no longer negative. This confirms what I said above in the analysis of the first chart. And this is potentially good news, as it suggests firming up of the upward trend in the Volume of sales.
  • Consumer Confidence Index remains weakly correlated with Value of Sales (0.393) as compared to pre-crisis (0.720), but it is now also positive as opposed to crisis period readings. This means, as I said above, that it is probably too early to call growth trend in Value series, but it is now time to watch the series closely for confirmation of denial of such trend.
  • Much of the RSAI index performance is skewed by the CCI presence in the series computation. Still, the index tracks much better the Value and Volume activity in the Retail Sector than the CCI.

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