Economy Watch: Retail Sales Eke Out Gain

The Census Bureau reported that U.S. retail and food services sales for June were $422.8 billion, an increase of 0.4 percent from the previous month.

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

The Census Bureau reported on Monday that U.S. retail and food services sales for June were $422.8 billion, an increase of 0.4 percent from the previous month. Compared with the same month last month, sales were up 5.7 percent. The bureau adjusts for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes.

Some retail sectors were naturally bigger winners than others. Non-store retailers—catalogues but especially Internet sales—were up 13.8 percent from June 2012, with online sales continuing its long-term trend of higher sales that represent a larger piece of the retail pie as well. Also, auto and other motor vehicle sales were up 12.9 percent from last year.

Other retail sectors experienced more modest growth since last year, such as grocery stores, which saw sales rise 1.9 percent, and food and drinking establishments, up 3.1 percent. No category did worse than department stores, however. Their sales were down 5.1 percent since this time last year.

FNC reports home prices rise in May

Another housing indicator released on Monday shows that the national market still has some momentum. According to the latest FNC Residential Price Index, U.S. home prices climbed another 0.5 percent in May compared with April. Notably, the movement in the index since the beginning of the year shows that the pace at which home prices has been rising is fairly modest, averaging 0.4 percent per month in the last six months.

FNC bases its indices on recorded sales of non-distressed properties (existing and new homes) in the 100 largest metropolitan areas. The FNC 100-MSA composite index was the one that rose 0.5 percent month-over-month. The two narrower indices (30-MSA and 10-MSA composites, tracking the 30 and 10 top markets, respectively) each recorded a 0.4 percent increase. On a year-over-year basis, home prices were up 4 percent from a year ago for the top 100 markets.

Most markets tracked by the FNC 30-MSA showed rising prices in May, led by Nashville, Tenn.; Phoenix; and Las Vegas, at nearly 2 percent each. In Phoenix, home prices continue to show no signs of moderation, rising 2 percent for 16 consecutive months, and 28 percent since May 2012. By contrast, home prices were flat to slightly declining in San Antonio; Houston; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and Detroit.

Wall Street had another modest up day on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 19.96 points, or 0.13 percent. The S&P 500 was up 0.14 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.21 percent.

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