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Record Bull-Run Pauses on Stagnant Retail Sales: Jun. 18, 2024

Record Bull-Run Pauses on Stagnant Retail Sales: Jun. 18, 2024

Posted June 18, 2024 at 11:00 am
Jose Torres
IBKR Macroeconomics

Stocks are taking a break from their record bull-run as another weaker-than-expected economic report generates questions about the health of the consumer. Retail sales volumes are indeed contracting so far in the second quarter, raising odds of an economic downturn. More significantly, if retail sales don’t pick up this month, the next GDP report, which is calculated on a quarterly basis, could turn negative. Meanwhile, market players are looking forward to a buffet of Fed speak today as Barkin, Collins, Hugler, Logan, Musalem and Goolsbee approach the podium. Also today, the US Treasury will test the market’s appetite for duration as it issues $13 billion worth of 20-year bonds against the backdrop of spent tax payments, evidenced by the reverse repo facility trending towards new cycle lows.

Reverse Repo

Past performance is not indicative of future results

Consumer Spending Clout Wanes

Shopper sluggishness extended in May with retail sales climbing just 0.1% on a month-over-month (m/m) basis. Last month’s figure failed to offset April’s downwardly revised 0.2% decline while also missing expectations for 0.2% growth. The weakness was partially driven by gasoline prices heading south, with sales of the product in dollar values dropping 2.2%, the largest contraction among categories within the Census Bureau’s report. While retail sales ex autos sank 0.1%, missing the analyst expectation for a 0.2% gain, retail sales ex gas and autos climbed 0.1% compared to the expected 0.3% contraction. Relief from pain at the pump, however, didn’t result in consumers dishing out more for a handful of other items, including the inflation-ridden restaurant and drinking parlor category, which declined 0.4%. Broadly speaking, the labor-intensive category has been experiencing strong sales—and inflation—a result of the Covid-19 pandemic creating pent-up demand for dining establishments and out-of-home entertainment. The following categories along with their stated contractions were also negative:

  • Furniture and home furniture stores, 1.1%
  • Building materials, garden equipment and supplies dealers, 0.8%
  • Food and beverage stores, 0.2%

The sporting goods, hobby and musical category provided the largest contribution to overall retail sales with a 2.8% increase, followed by clothing and clothing accessories, which advanced 0.9%. Other positive categories increased as follows:

  • Clothing and clothing accessories, 0.9%
  • Motor vehicle and parts retailers, 0.8%
  • Ecommerce, 0.8%
  • Electronic and appliance stores, 0.4%
  • Miscellaneous store retailers, 0.4%
  • Health and personal care stores, 0.1%
  • General merchandise stores, 0.1%
Retail Sales

Past performance is not indicative of future results

Industrial Production Stronger Than Expected

May’s industrial production was stronger than expected, climbing 0.9% m/m, beating the analyst expectation by 60 basis points (bps). On a year-over-year basis, production climbed 0.4%. The utilities industry was the strongest, gaining 1.6% and was followed by manufacturing, which climbed 0.9%; materials, up 0.8%; and mining, up 0.3%. Major market groups advanced as follows:

  • Consumer goods, up 1%
  • Materials, up 0.8%
  • Nonindustrial supplies, up 0.6%
  • Business equipment, up 0.2%
  • Construction, up 0.1%

In a related matter, capacity utilization, which quantifies the percentage of production relative to maximum output, was 78.7% in May. The average from 1972 to 2023 is 79.6%.

Equity Rally Reverses

Stocks are reversing from yesterday’s monster gains while yields point south on the back of waning consumer momentum and easing economic growth prospects. All major, large-cap US equity indices are lower while the small-cap Russell 2000 is the only gainer; it’s up a modest 0.2%. The Nasdaq Composite, S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial benchmarks are down 0.2%, 0.1% and 0.1%. Sector breadth is split, however, with energy, real estate and financials leading the upside; they’re up 1%, 0.5% and 0.4%. Consumer discretionary is losing the most on the back of revenue worries. The sector is lower by 0.5%. Materials and communication services are second and third in line, with both segments down 0.4%. Treasurys are garnering interest as the avenue of Fed easing widens, with the 2- and 10-year maturities changing hands at 4.72% and 4.24%, 4 and 5 bps lighter on the session. The dollar is near the flatline, appreciating relative to the yuan, yen and pound sterling but depreciating versus the euro, franc and Aussie and Canadian dollars. In commodity land, action is mixed, as copper, silver and lumber lose 0.9%, 0.6% and 0.5%. Crude oil and gold are loftier by 0.7% and 0.4%, however, as traders look toward the summer driving season and projections of dwindling stateside inventories amidst defensive positioning driven by geopolitical and election uncertainties.

Friday’s PMI Will Tell Us About June

This morning’s retail sales numbers were certainly disappointing as we’ve witnessed two consecutive months of softness. A significant development of the current economic cycle has been that periods of consumer weakness have been followed by robust comebacks. As fiscal stimulus wanes and labor conditions cool, this time may indeed be different, with households increasingly incapable of sustaining recent spending patterns. While the path toward a fed funds reduction is indeed widening today, so is the trail to recession. In conclusion, this month’s spending patterns will be quite significant as June will be the final retail sales figure of the quarter, which will definitely move the needle on economic growth. Our real-time measures of June consumption show lackluster spending, which may or may not be confirmed by this Friday’s flash PMIs for this month.

We hope you enjoy the Juneteenth National Independence Day tomorrow while recognizing the contributions that the African American community have provided.

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