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--5 Things We Learned From The September Retail Sales Data
By Shikha Dave and Harrison Clarke
     WASHINGTON (MNI) - The following are the key points from the 
September retail sales report from the Commerce Department released 
     - September retail sales were up 0.1% in the month, well below 
analysts projections for a 0.6% gain, and below the more modest 0.4% 
gain expected by markets. There was no revision to August sales. 
Analysts had expected vehicle sales to be mildly stronger, but they 
posted a solid gain. The impact of Hurricane Florence is not yet clear 
in the data, but the impact of Hurricane Michael should be seen in 
greater magnitude next month. 
     - Excluding a 0.8% gain in motor vehicle sales, which was due in 
part to the replacement of vehicles lost in Florence, retail sales were 
down 0.1%, compared with the 0.4% gain expected. The gain in overall 
sales was unrevised in August, but sales excluding motor vehicles was 
revised lower in August. 
     - September sales were flat ex. motor vehicle and gas, below the 
August rate, and were up 0.5% for the "control" group (ex auto, building 
materials, gas and food services), above the flat August reading. The 
data suggest that the underlying current of sales is mixed. 
     - Gas station sales down 0.8% in the month (retail sales ex. gas 
+0.2%), while building materials sales were up 0.1% and food services 
sales were down 1.8%. The key offsets were health and personal care 
stores, and food services and drinking places. Building permit sales are 
likely to rise sharply in the coming months as rebuilding efforts in the 
hurricane-impacted areas increase. 
     - At an annualized rate, average third quarter sales were up 5.1% 
from the second quarter average, based on an MNI calculation. Sales were 
up 6.4% ex motor vehicles, and up 4.8% ex autos, building materials, 
gas, and food services. The result should be a positive factor in PCE 
growth for the quarter. 
     ** MNI Washington Bureau: 202-371-2121 **