The Bloomberg retail sales consensus estimate was for a 1.1% gain. Sales did rise for the first time in four months, but not as much as expected.

Retail sales in March rebounded 0.9 percent after dropping 0.5 percent in February. The market consensus for March was for a 1.1 percent boost. Excluding autos, sales gained 0.4 percent, following no change in February. Expectations were for a 0.6 percent increase. Gasoline sales dipped 0.6 percent after 2.3 percent increase in February. Excluding both autos and gasoline sales rebounded 0.5 percent after declining 0.3 percent in February. Expectations were for a 0.4 percent increase.

Experts Confounded

Please consider U.S. Retail Sales Rise for First Time in Four Months.

U.S. retail sales rose for the first time in four months in March, but the gain wasn’t enough to offset weaker spending during the winter months as consumers continued to largely pocket savings from cheaper gasoline prices.

This outcome confounds all the standard consumer-spending models,” J.P. Morgan chief U.S. economist Michael Feroli said in a note to clients. “Job gains, wealth gains, low gas prices and very high consumer sentiment would all point to solid consumer spending increases.”

The rebound we had been waiting for was rather soft and disappointing,” Laura Rosner, an economist at BNP Paribas, said in a note to clients.

Paying less at the pump should free up money for U.S. consumers to spend elsewhere. But many are socking that money away, or using it to pay down debt.

Possible Explanations

  1. Consumers did not realize how much the weather has changed for the better.
  2. The standard models  are bogus.
  3. Reports of strong jobs are more myth than reality.

I opt for a combination of two and three.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock