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Retail sales flatten in April against March, surge year-over-year

Consumers tempered their spending in April despite weather improvements, as retail sales remained flat against stronger March spending patterns, according the National Retail Federation. 

April retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, were unchanged seasonally-adjusted month-to-month on the heels of a 3.6% bump upward in March. That said, retail sales increased 4.7 % unadjusted year-over-year. 

“The shift in Easter to April did not provide enough bounce to retailers as retail sales struggled to keep their strong spring pace,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “With consumer spending accounting for roughly 70% of total economic activity, NRF remains hopeful that the uninspiring April retail sales figures are just a temporary seasonal fluctuation.”

The U.S. Census Bureau also reports retail sales, which are inclusive of automobiles, fuel and food. They report April sales of $434.6 billion, up 0.1% month-to-month. The Census Bureau said retail sales increased 4% on an adjusted year-over-year basis.

“Even though retail sales were weaker than anticipated, the fundamentals of the economy, including improving job growth and income gains, remain positive,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “While the shift in Easter played into the seasonal figures, NRF remains optimistic that retail sales will keep their positive trajectory, albeit in fits-and-starts, in the second quarter.”

The nation’s largest retailer Wal-Mart will report its fiscal first quarter earnings on Thursday (May 15). This quarter includes the months February, March and April. Wall Street is awaiting the results as Wal-Mart is seen as a barometer for the broader economy. The retail giant’s sales comprise roughly 10% the nation’s retail spending, excluding automobiles. The average family of four spends $4,000 a year at Wal-Mart and one in every four grocery dollars are spent at Wal-Mart.

The consensus estimate among analysts who cover Wal-Mart Stores is that the retailer will post per share earnings of $1.15 on revenue of $116.29 billion. Both estimates are slightly higher than actual income and revenue in the same quarter in the previous fiscal year.

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Segment Sales Gainers (year-over-year)
• Building materials, garden equipment and supply sales increased 2.7%
• Clothing and accessory sales increased 5.2%
• Furniture and home furnishing sales increased 3.6%
• General merchandise sales increased 5.3%
• Health and personal care sales increased 6.6%
• Online retailers’ sales increased 5.8%

Segment Sales Losers (year-over-year)
• Electronics and appliance sales decreased 1.8%
• Sporting goods, hobby, book and music sales decreased 0.6%

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