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Commerce Department: Sales Down 0.1% in February; January Revised Up

Updated 12:30

The Commerce Department's figures for February came in. Sales fell 0.1 percent from February--less than what analysts had expected. Excluding autos, sales rose 0.7 percent. On an even more positive note, January sales--which had been reported as rising 1.0 percent--were revised upward to a 1.8 percent gain. Bloomberg has a write-up here.

Is this the beginning of the turnaround or merely a momentary blip? It seems hard for me to believe that consumer spending will rebound strongly at a time when we're seeing 600,000 jobs disappear every month--with the losses seeming to be accelerating.

Nevertheless, good news is good news.

Update: Calculated Risk puts the report into perspective.

All things considered, this is a decent retail sales report. Q1 retail sales are still about 1.4% below sales in Q4, but it appears that sales might have stabilized - especially ex-auto.

It now appears that Q1 GDP will be very weak - because investment is falling off a cliff and there is a significant inventory correction in progress - but Q1 PCE might only be slightly negative.

Note: February is typically the weakest retail month of the year, so the seasonal adjustment is the largest - and during periods of rapid change this can distort the data a little.

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