Retail sales rebound in January. US retail sales rose 5.3% month over month in January according to the US Census Bureau, ahead of Bloomberg consensus forecasts of 1.1%. The surge in retail sales was the highest in seven months, a strong response following December’s 1% decline as fresh stimulus checks helped spur consumer demand following the headwinds caused by rising COVID-19 cases at the end of 2020. Further, strong January retail sales should remove much of the risk for the US economy to stall in the first quarter of 2021.
Retail sales rose 0.6% month over month in August following July’s downwardly revised 0.9% advance, but sales fell short of Bloomberg’s consensus expectation for a 1% increase. The retail sales control group, which excludes building materials, autos, and gas, fell 0.1% month over month and also missed estimates (source: US Census Bureau).
COVID-19 has decimated global demand as lockdowns materially re-shaped consumer and business behavior. Even as states have begun to re-open, significant questions remain about how demand could recover. The May retail sales print provided one of the first glimpses of that answer, rising 17.7% month over month and marking the largest monthly gain since data began in 1992.