Headline sales declined by 0.1%, which was a bit worse than the 0.0% expected by economists.
Excluding autos and gas, sales climbed by just 0.4%, which was a bit worse than the 0.5% gain expected.
“The weakness in the headline retail sales figure is largely a function of the sharp drop in auto sales, which fell 5.1% mom to 15.4 million in August,” noted Bank of America Merrill Lynch ahead of the report. “Gas prices fell in September, but we expect overall gasoline station receipts to be up.”
Auto sales have been on a roll lately, but that was due to a couple of temporary factor. Auto sales had declined so far and so fast during the Great Recession, that the nations auto fleet was at a record average age. Eventually those vehicles were going to have to be replaced by younger models. Also, the used car fleet had been partially depleted by the Cash for Clunkers debacle. So really there was really nowhere for car sales to go but up — for a while.
That while might have ended.
But expect the usual suspects to blame the shutdown (which didn’t begin until October) for the retail slowdown.