US retail sales were down 0.7 per cent in February seasonally adjusted from January but up 2.7 per cent unadjusted y-o-y due to delays and revisions related to government shutdown, said the National Retail Federation (NRF). Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 0.5 per cent y-o-y and down 0.4 per cent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the US Census Bureau, which said that overall February sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were down 0.2 per cent seasonally adjusted from January but up 2.2 per cent unadjusted year-over-year. February’s results build on improvement seen in January, which was up 1.9 per cent monthly and 4.8 per cent year-over-year, according to revised data.

“The weaker-than-expected February retail sales numbers reflect colder weather and increased precipitation that kept shoppers home but were also skewed downward because of the government’s upward revision in January’s results,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “The after effects of the erratic stock market, the government shutdown and slower tax refunds this year also likely played a role. It is important to look beyond the February figures and focus on the very significant revision to January retail sales, which shows that the consumer has not forsaken the economy as some previously claimed. We still expect growth to pick up, fuelled by strong fundamentals like job and wage growth that are driving increased consumer spending. The consumer will continue to provide direction and strength to the US economy in the months ahead.” NRF is forecasting that retail sales during 2019 will increase between 3.8 per cent and 4.4 per cent to more than $3.8 trn. The forecast is subject to revision as more data is released in the coming months.