Boom? Retail sales skyrocket in May; Update: Markets soar

V-shaped recovery, here we come? Maaayyybeee, but there is no doubt that today’s advance retail numbers for May show reason for hope. Even while a number of states still enforced lockdowns and restrictions on retail and food service establishments, the Census Bureau announced today that May’s numbers made up all the lost ground in April — and then some.

Donald Trump wasted little time taking a victory lap on Twitter over the new numbers:

The biggest increase of all time came after one of the biggest craters in this series of all time, too, but it also bested it by three percentage points. The news wasn’t all bright on the brick-and-mortar front, though:

Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for May 2020, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $485.5 billion, an increase of 17.7 percent (± 0.5 percent) from the previous month, but 6.1 percent (± 0.7 percent) below May 2019. Total sales for the March 2020 through May 2020 period were down 10.5 percent (± 0.5 percent) from the same period a year ago. The March 2020 to April 2020 percent change was revised from down 16.4 percent (± 0.5 percent) to down 14.7 percent (± 0.2 percent).

Retail trade sales were up 16.8 percent (± 0.5 percent) from April 2020, but 1.4 percent (± 0.7 percent) below last year. Nonstore retailers were up 30.8 percent (± 1.4 percent) from May 2019, while building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were up 16.4 percent (± 1.9 percent) from last year.

All of the indicators were blinking green on comparisons to last month, although not equally so. Clothing stores were up 188% month-on-month, although down 63.4% year-on-year, making this category both the biggest winner and the biggest loser. Furniture and home stores were up 89.7% month-on-month but down 21.5% year on year, and so on. Grocery stores were up only 1.3% month-on-month but up 14.4% year on year, likely thanks to the closure of restaurants.

One of the biggest keys in this report is that non-store retailers were still up 9% month-on-month and up 30.8% year-on-year. Other major store types are still way off year on year, even if they showed improvement in May: electronics store -29.9%, gasoline stations -30.8%, department stores -25.8%, and so on. Physical stores are likely still hemorrhaging business to Amazon and other on-line retailers, and might be for a while. That’s not a great sign for a jobs rebound.

However, food services offer a bright sign for hope on that front, as do auto sales:

Excluding motor vehicles and parts, which popped by 44.1%, May’s gain came in at 12.4%, which also is the best on record going back to 1967.

After being almost completely shuttered during the lockdown, food services and drinking places saw a 29.1% rebound in May. Some states began allowing outdoor dining during the month after the establishments were limited to curbside pickup and delivery.

While the monthly gains set records, the economy is still making up for lost ground.

Total sales were off 6.1% from a year ago as economists still expect the biggest annualized GDP in the second quarter that the U.S. has ever seen.

The big bounce might have solved one mystery. If retail sales rebounded this sharply in May, then it might explain why we got a sharply positive jobs report. Those sales require workers to complete, plus it requires buying power to create in the first place. The lack of year-on-year sales growth in most brick-and-mortar stores shows that the effect has been limited, but it also suggests that demand has become pent-up by the shutdowns. Once those fully ease, we might see a dramatic lift, even if it doesn’t quite make a V for a full and immediate recovery.

One last point on the jobs metric: this is the part of the month where the Bureau of Labor Statistics will conduct its surveys. Thus far, the momentum for reopening continues, and doesn’t appear to be impacted by the riots in major cities this month. That might impact the BLS surveys a bit, and the loss of retail stores in the riots might dent next month’s retail report a little, but for now it looks like we’re heading into a summer of good economic news. The stock market seems to think so, too:

U.S. stock futures surged on Tuesday as a record jump in retail sales — coupled with positive trial results from a potential coronavirus treatment and hopes of more stimulus — sent market sentiment soaring.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rallied more than 900 points, or 3.5% and implied an opening gain of about 1,000 points. S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 futures were both higher by more than 2% as well.

With all that, who can blame Trump for a victory lap this morning?

Update: The markets soared on the news, although not quite as dramatically as futures indicated:

Stocks surged on Tuesday as a record jump in retail sales — coupled with positive trial results from a potential coronavirus treatment and hopes of more stimulus — sent market sentiment soaring.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded 679 points higher, or 2.6%. The S&P 500 gained 2.5% while the Nasdaq Composite climbed 2.3%.

The new stimulus is weeks off, so I doubt that’s having much of an impact at the moment. Today’s report is a sign that consumer spending — the biggest engine in the US economy — is revving up again.

Trending on HotAir Videos