The U.S. April retail sales data were mixed but generally weaker than expected, confirming that the second quarter is beginning on a negative growth path that will continue the recession.

April retail sales declined 0.4%, ex-autos fell 0.5%, and ex-auto and gasoline sales dropped negative 0.3% in a far worse showing than most estimates. This confirms the second quarter is starting out very weak, and supports negative forecasts for gross domestic product.

There was widespread weakness in sales, but some exceptions were autos and parts up negative 0.2%, building materials up 0.3%, health care up 0.4%, sporting goods up 0.3% and restaurants up 0.2%.

Declines in electronics, down 2.8%, gasoline, off 2.3%, and furniture, food, clothing, department store sales, and mail-Internet sales offset the other gains.

The entire dip in sales was in the seasonal adjustment, suggesting the Commerce Department’s statisticians were well aware of the fact that Easter was later than in 2008 and adjusted accordingly.

Annual revisions were released in the data but do not alter the picture of on-going weakness. March 2009 sales were revised a little lower, based on both this benchmark and revised monthly data.

— Market News International

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