What's Down With Nominal Retail Sales Growth?

By: Paul Kasriel | Wed, Mar 14, 2007
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Asha will do her usual excellent job of synthesizing the February retail sales report and highlighting the important implications of it. But I wanted to call your attention to an interesting trend change in retail sales. As shown in the chart below, the trend in nominal retail sales is down. The year-over-year change in the 3-month moving average of nominal retail sales was 3.69% in February (read off the left-hand scale), down from its peak growth of 9.25% in August 2005 and the slowest growth since June 2003. Why the pronounced downward trend in the growth of nominal retail sales? Well, perhaps because of the downward trend in overall consumer inflation, largely as a result of the decline in oil prices from their 2006 peak of $75 a barrel. But why would the decline in oil prices be associated with a decline in the growth of nominal retail sales? Won't folks spend their gas pump savings at the mall, thus maintaining the growth in nominal retail sales? Perhaps some folks are starting to develop anxiety about their finances and are depositing their gas pump savings into a savings account at a bank? Whatever the reason for the current sharp slowing in the trend of nominal retail sales growth, past such sharp slowing trends have typically been associated with declines in the federal funds rate - presumably purposely engineered by the Fed - and/or recessions. But it's probably just the weather this time.



Paul Kasriel

Author: Paul Kasriel

Paul L. Kasriel
Director of Economic Research
The Northern Trust Company
Economic Research Department
Positive Economic Commentary
"The economics of what is, rather than what you might like it to be."
50 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois 60675

Paul Kasriel

Paul joined the economic research unit of The Northern Trust Company in 1986 as Vice President and Economist, being named Senior Vice President and Director of Economic Research in 2000. His economic and interest rate forecasts are used both internally and by clients. The accuracy of the Economic Research Department's forecasts has consistently been highly-ranked in the Blue Chip survey of about 50 forecasters over the years. To that point, Paul received the prestigious 2006 Lawrence R. Klein Award for having the most accurate economic forecast among the Blue Chip survey participants for the years 2002 through 2005. The accuracy of Paul's 2008 economic forecast was ranked in the top five of The Wall Street Journal survey panel of economists. In January 2009, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes cited Paul as one of the few who identified early on the formation of the housing bubble and foresaw the economic and financial market havoc that would ensue after the bubble inevitably burst. Through written commentaries containing his straightforward and often nonconsensus analysis of economic and financial market issues, Paul has developed a loyal following in the financial community. The Northern's economic website was listed as one of the top ten most interesting by The Wall Street Journal. Paul is the co-author of a book entitled Seven Indicators That Move Markets.

Paul began his career as a research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He has taught courses in finance at the DePaul University Kellstadt Graduate School of Business and at the Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Paul serves on the Economic Advisory Committee of the American Bankers Association.

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