Retail sales increase, but mostly because gas prices have increased

Via Census:

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for January, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $381.6 BB, an increase of 0.3% from previous month, and 7.8% above January 2010. Total sales for the November 2010 through January 2011 period were up 7.6% from the same period a year ago. The November to December 2010 change was revised from +0.6% to +0.5%.

The almighty consumer appears to be shutting their wallets.  After a robust holiday season, the gain made was mostly because gas prices increased causing the headline number to read higher.

The latest sales gain was led by a 1.4% increase in gasoline sales with food & beverage stores up 1.3% and nonstore retailers up 1.2%. Other notable increases include a 0.8% advance for general merchandise (which includes department stores) and a 0.5% boost for motor vehicles and parts. The weakest components were building materials & garden equipment, down 2.9%, and sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores, down 1.3%. Food services & drinking places fell 0.7%.

Overall retail sales on a year-ago basis in January advanced to 7.8% from 7.6% the previous month. Excluding motor vehicles, sales were unchanged at a year-ago 6.2%.

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