The advance retail sales report released this morning shows that sales in April came in at 0.1% month over month, a strong improvement over the downwardly revised -0.5% in March. Today's headline number came in above the Briefing.com consensus forecast of -0.3%. Cheaper gasoline prices gave a boost to retail sales ex. gas to the tune of 0.7%, up from -0.1% last month.
The first chart below is a log-scale snapshot of retail sales since the early 1990s. I've included an inset to show the trend in this indicator over the past several months.
Next is a year-over-year snapshot of the same series. Here we can see that, despite the upward trend since the middle of last year, the year-over-year series has been slowing since its peak in June 2011.
After the May Consumer Price Index is released on Thursday, we'll take a more detailed look at retail sales adjusted both for inflation and population growth.
Bottom Line: Although retail sales came in better than expected, the trend has been slowing month over month, and the year-over-year trend has been one of broad decline for the past 21 months.