U.S. Retail Sales Up 1% in June

The increase was mainly due to rising costs, while consumer sentiment is at a low point.

July 18, 2022

Consumer with Shopping Bags

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—U.S. retail sales were up 1% last month, reports CNBC. However, with consumer inflation at 9.1%, a four-decade high, shoppers received less for their money.

In May, retail sales declined 0.1%, which was revised from the initial report of a 0.3% drop, though June’s sales increase is still a big jump from May’s number. The retail figures are not adjusted for inflation.

CNBC reports that cost increases for gas and food helped propel the sales increase. Gas prices were up 3.6%, with pump prices briefly surpassing $5 a gallon last month, though they have since receded. Bars and restaurant sales also gained 1%.

“The 1.0% [month-over-month] rise in retail sales in June isn’t as good as it looks, as it mainly reflects the boost to nominal sales values from surging prices,” wrote Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. “Accounting for the surge in prices, however, real consumption looks to have been broadly stagnant in June.”

Consumer sentiment is down, with the University of Michigan reading at 51.1, which is around record lows. However, the stock market rallied on Friday following the increase in retail sales, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up more than 470 points in the first half-hour of trading. Government bond yields moved lower.

Consumers have been mostly resilient in the face of the highest inflation rate since November 1981, CNBC reports. The debt-to-after-tax income rate is at 9.5%, and although it’s rising, it is well below longer-term levels. However, other economic points have been weakening. A Fed survey released last week showed escalating concerns about inflation and a recession.

Numerator reports that as of early July 2022, 23.6% of consumers claimed they did not have spare cash, a trend driven by rural, Gen Z and low-income households. Also, financial optimism was at a record low in early July. Less than half (47.4%) of consumers rated their financial situation as “good” or “very good,” down from 56.2% of consumers in July 2021.

Investors and economic analysts are debating whether the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates by a full percentage point instead of 0.75% later this month. The Fed is set on getting inflation under control, but raising interest rates also increases a recession risk. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank wants to see clear evidence that price pressures are diminishing before slowing or suspending rate increases.

Spending remains elevated, but there are signs of softening demand, Numerator reports. In-store spending is at a 2022 high of +24%, with club and dollar-store channels seeing the largest gains, at +15% and +14% in spend, respectively. Shoppers are increasing trips by 4%, and spend per trip by 9%, Numerator finds. High income shoppers show the largest increase in spend at +33%.