US retail sales…Is the Sun really shining again?

Retail sales takeaways:

  • In rebound mode, but nothing as yet to suggest trend of slowing growth cycles has been broken.
  • Motor Vehicle and Parts sales, a key driver of sales growth heretofore, looks to have slipped to a much lower gear: less consumer credit growth fuelling demand?
  • Retail sales adjusted for CPI ex shelter and adjusted for population growth only just bubbling up around pre crisis levels.
  • Seasonality: some questions over the extent to which seasonality is impacting the data.
  • Inventory to retail sales growth at historically high levels: economy exposed to heightened short term risks to spending.
  • CPI ex shelter, flatlining post 2012.
  • Boundaries to retail sales growth: consumer credit to disposable income ratios, long term income growth declines, peak personal consumption expenditures and continuation of weak profile post late 1990s: longer term dynamics at play.

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Some obscure perspectives on Canadian Household expenditure

An economy is an asset that produces flows of consumption and investment expenditure.  In a growing economy you would expect these flows to grow.  Household consumption expenditure, while growing larger every year, has ceased to increase at a faster rate year on year for some time:


If we exclude imputed rent paid by households (money not actually spent) and money spent on games of chance (excluded here for the benefit of the analysis to follow), annual year on year (Q on Q basis) shows data as of Q4 2015 below growth in flows reached in the late 1980s:


Why have I deducted games of chance from expenditure?  Well the main reason is I believe that increased expenditure on games of chance is more a sign of consumer stress than consumer health:


Imputed rent, also a proxy for housing affordability, as a % of household expenditure has increased to close to 16% while expenditure on recreation and culture ex games of chance has fallen steadily since its peak in 1999.

The divergence can be better seen in the following chart showing annual Q on Q increases in these expenditures: