Bloomberg News

Retail Sales in U.S. Probably Rose in September on Auto Demand

October 14, 2011

Oct. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Retail sales in the U.S. increased in September at the fastest pace in six months, boosted by vehicle purchases, economists said before a report this week.

The projected 0.7 percent gain would follow little change in August, according to the median of 85 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. Another report may show consumer confidence is improving this month.

Macy’s Inc. and Kohl’s Corp. are among retailers planning to boost hiring heading into the year-end holidays, even amid limited job growth. President Barack Obama, lawmakers and the Federal Reserve face pressure to spur the employment gains needed to support household spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the world’s largest economy.

“Consumers remain relatively resilient,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “It’s evident they don’t want to cut back on spending. It’s going to be a decent but not spectacular holiday shopping season.”

The Commerce Department will report the sales data at 8:30 a.m. in Washington. Economists’ estimates ranged from gains of 0.2 percent to 1.6 percent.

September light-vehicle deliveries climbed to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 13.1 million, according to Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata Corp. The rate is the highest since April’s 13.2 million, when lost output caused by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami began hurting supplies of cars and parts.

Sales Minus Autos

Retail purchases excluding auto dealers rose 0.3 percent last month after a 0.1 percent increase in August, according to the survey median.

Same-store sales at retailers, excluding Wal-Mart Stores Inc., climbed 5.5 percent in September from a year earlier, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

At the same time, persistent unemployment, the real-estate slump and a volatile stock market will limit retail sales growth to 2.8 percent during the holiday season this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

The gain compares with a 5.2 percent jump last year and a 10-year average of 2.6 percent, the Washington based NRF said last week. Stores may hire 480,000 to 500,000 seasonal workers, in line with the 495,000 added last year, the group said.

Macy’s, the second-biggest U.S. department-store chain, is increasing hiring of mostly part-time workers by 4 percent for the holiday season to match sales growth in its stores and online. Kohl’s, the fourth-largest U.S. department-store chain, said last week it may hire more than 40,000 holiday workers, a 5 percent increase from 2010.

‘Very Cautious’

“Households have been very cautious in their spending decisions,” Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Oct. 4 in congressional testimony. “Probably the most significant factor depressing consumer confidence, however, has been the poor performance of the job market.”

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of sentiment for October rose to 60.2 from 59.4, according to the median projection before today’s 9:55 a.m. report. While improving since reaching an almost three-year low in August, the measure remains lower than the 64.2 averaged during the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009.

The jobless rate held at 9.1 percent in September even as employers added more workers to payrolls than forecast. The Labor Department said Oct. 7 that employment climbed by 103,000 after a revised 57,000 increase the prior month that was more than originally estimated.

“The U.S. has a long-term issue with unemployment that for the average consumer is going to remain challenging,” Blake Jorgensen, chief financial officer for Levi Strauss & Co., said in a telephone interview this week from San Francisco, where the closely held company is based. “We’re remaining cautious.”

Retailers are faring better than the overall market. The Standard & Poor’s Supercomposite Retailing Index is up 3.4 percent this year, while the broader S&P 500 Index has declined 4.3 percent during the same period.

--With assistance from Chris Burritt in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Chris Middleton in Washington. Editors: Carlos Torres, Vince Golle

To contact the reporter on this story: Timothy R. Homan in Washington at thoman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net


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