Retail sales rose in June for the fourth month in a row, quieting concerns that the trade wars and weaker manufacturing output would also drag down consumer spending.
The most surprising strength in the report was a 0.7 percent jump in auto sales. Nonretailers (Internet), which continue to feed off of traditional retailers such as department stores, according to Econoday, was also surprising with a 1.7 percent for the second month in a row.
And discretionary spending, such as for restaurants, was up 0.9 percent following prior gains of 1.0 percent, 0.7 percent, and 0.8 percent. “This shows that consumers, flush with confidence and fully employed, are enjoying themselves,” said Econoday.
The list of strengths goes on with both furniture and building materials snapping back with 0.5 percent gains that point to strength for residential investment. Clothing stores saw sales also rise 0.5 percent as did health & personal care stores.
More good news was today’s Federal Reserve Industrial Production report that showed renewed strength in manufacturing—particularly in motor vehicle production. It’s still far below last year’s manufacturing output, however, that was mainly due to the 2017 tax breaks that raised profits.
Manufacturing is by far the largest component in this report and June’s results are almost uniformly strong, led by a 2.9 percent monthly rise for motor vehicle production and a 0.7 percent rise for selected hi-tech. Business equipment production posted a second strong increase at 0.5 percent that follows May’s 0.4 percent rise in gains that should ease the Fed’s concerns over business investment.
Construction supplies also show strength, up 0.5 percent and 0.6 percent in the last two reports in what are positive signals for construction demand that reinforces the increased furniture and building materials gains in retail sales.
One month’s gain in manufacturing does not constitute a trend, however. But consumers are flush and confident, so economists may begin to raise their growth forecasts if this trend continues.
Harlan Green © 2019
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