US Consumers Continue to Shop for Recovery

15 May 2002

Is America’s as yet uncertain recovery about to take wing?

This question has been on the lips of world economists and investors since the turn of the year. And according to US consumers, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’!

Retail spend in April surged by 1.2% over March, surprising analysts and the Commerce Department alike. The gain remains robust at 1% even when burgeoning auto sales are deducted from the equation. Restaurants, department stores and building-materials outlets all benefited from the spending spree.

The Commerce Department’s latest report was published Tuesday, the numbers contrasting favourably with those of March when retail sales growth was a mere 0.1%.

But don’t break out the bubbly just yet, warn the pessimists: Tuesday’s data could have been boosted by seasonal anomalies. The earlier-than-usual Easter holiday could have weakened March retail sales while boosting those in April.

Go pull the cork, respond the Panglossians: retail sales rose at an annualized 7.6% during the past three months, a concrete number even if the data was temporarily distorted by an early Easter.

They also point out that April's strength was spread across a number of sectors. Sales in general merchandise stores rose by 1.2%; in department-stores by 0.6%. Gasoline sales accelerated 2%. The only blip on the chart was furniture sales which dipped by 1.4%.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff