Consumer spending fell 0.2% in April, a sign that the overall economy might be slowing. Retail Sales in March were revised up from a 1.6% increase to a 1.7% increase following the decline in February. Retailers could take further hits if President Trump imposes the additional tariffs, many of the new proposed tariffs are focused on consumer products.
The economy is still expanding at a good pace of 3.2% for the first quarter. Markets are taking further hits on the weak economic data, putting more pressure on the Federal Reserve to lower rates. Gold was slightly up, and the dollar was slightly down following the equity market decline.
Retail Sales Data
Consumer spending in April was estimated to be a 0.2% gain by economists at both Reuters and Bloomberg. Retail Sales has been anything but steady during this quarter. Retail sales in March were revised to a 1.7% increase after February showed a decline. April’s decline showed a drop in sales for electronics, home improvement and vehicles.
Sales at electronic and appliance stores decreased 1.3% while department store sales rose 0.7%. Clothing store sales dropped 0.2%. Building material and Garden stores dropped 1.9% for the month of April. Gas sales advanced 1.8%. This increase does not consider the fact that gas prices have risen in recent months. Average gas prices for U.S drivers sit at $2.80 a gallon in April, up from $2.52 in March.
Retailers could take further declines if President Trump imposes the additional tariffs, most of which are focused on consumer products. Tariff cost is usually passed on to the consumer, forcing retailers to increase prices ultimately leading to a decline in sales.
— Report on Business (@globebusiness) May 15, 2019
In total the economy still seems to be on a steady growth pace with the economy expanding at a 3.2% annual pace in the first quarter, adjusted for seasonality and inflation. Consumer spending is down substantially from the final quarter of 2018. Economists are expecting less growth for the second quarter of 2019.
Markets and economists are viewing the slower growth as a signal to the Federal Reserve to start considering lower interest rates. President Donald Trump is also adding to that pressure. However, the Federal Reserve has reiterated their stance of patience. The Fed believes that the steady job and income gains should support purchases for the second quarter. The Fed might have to reconsider their stance if we see further signs of slowed growth.
Gold, Equity and Dollar Price Action
Following the disappointing retail sales figures the equity markets started the trading day down more than 100 points on the DOW. Gold was slightly up on the weakness of the overall markets. Its hard to pinpoint if the decline in equities was a result of the disappointing retail sales figures or just continued selling after a rough few weeks for the overall markets.
It is confirming to the markets that the economy could be slowing down. The weak data puts more pressure on the Federal Reserve and sets gold up for a potential breakout should we see more signs of growth slowing. Additional weak data will also put more pressure on the overall equity markets.