This morning both March PPI and retail sales were released. The PPI was more negative than anticipated, suggesting a negative CPI tomorrow (Deflation is Here!).
Retail sales are more interesting. I've written several pieces about consumers coming back from the grave. At first blush, the March numbers seem to contradict what we saw from Shoppertrak re mall sales; and also same store sales, and to a very limited extent, auto sales -- all of which showed some improvement.
Retail sales were off -9.4% YoY. Ex-auto they were off ~6.0% YoY. A closer look suggests (1) Easter falling one week later in April may have much to do with the decline; and (2) almost all of the decline is in auto and gasoline sales.
Total retail sales from a year ago fell from 380.2 to 344.4. Almost all of that decline was autos, down from 67.0 to 49.7; and gasoline, down from 42.3 to 27.9.
The same is true looking at January vs. March. Overall retail sales were stable at 344.0 in Jan. to 344.4 in March. Auto sales, however, were off from 52.7 to 49.7. Gasoline was up from 27.5 to 27.9.
We have had huge swings in gasoline prices in the last year. How much of "real" retail sales are due to that swing in prices is an important issue. I'm working on it and I'll have more to say in a day or two.