US retail sales dropped in May for the first time in almost one year, but less than expected. On a monthly basis, retail sales fell by 0.2% M/M, while the consensus was looking for a decline by 0.5% M/M. The April outcome was downwardly adjusted from 0.5% M/M to 0.3% M/M. The breakdown shows a sharp decline in sales of motor vehicles & parts (-2.9% M/M) and electronics (-1.3% M/M), and also furniture (-0.7% M/M), food & beverages (-0.5% M/M), sporting goods (-0.4% M/M) sales fell in May. Sales of building materials (1.2% M/M), non-store retailers (1.2% M/M), health & personal care (0.8% M/M) and eating and drinking (0.6% M/M) rose significantly. As the headline figure was restrained by a sharp decline in sales of motor vehicles and parts, core retail sales excluding autos & gas, increased for a fifth consecutive month (by 0.3% M/M, slightly above consensus). The decline in vehicle sales might be due to the situation in Japan. The trend in core retail sales, which excludes the volatile autos and gas components, remains positive, which is an encouraging sign that the very weak eco data for April might have been an outlier and not the harbinger of a upcoming recession, but more of a temporary soft patch.
In May, US NFIB small business optimism weakened for a third consecutive month. The headline index dropped from 91.2 to 90.9, which was less than expected as the consensus was looking for a decline to 90.5. The details show that the number of firms reporting plan to hire (-1% from 2%), increased capital spending (20% from 21%), plan to increase inventories (-3% from -1%), expect higher sales (3% from 5%), inventory satisfaction (-1% from 1%), positions not able to fill (12% from 14%) all dropped in May. The number of firms reporting higher selling prices (15% from 12%), expect better economy (-5% from -8%), easing of credit conditions (-11% from -13%) and good time to expand (5% from 4%) rose in May. Small business confidence is now at its lowest level since September 2010, which is in line with other business confidence indicators, but the decline is losing pace, which suggests that a trough may be nearby. More evidence is needed though.