Retail Sales Miss Expectations

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for March, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $389.3 billion, an increase of 0.4 percent from the previous month, and 7.1 percent above March 2010. Analysts were expecting a rise of 0.5 percent.

Total sales for the January through March 2011 period were up 8.1 percent from the same period a year ago.  The January to February 2011 percent change was revised from +1.0 percent to +1.1 percent.

Retail trade sales were up 0.3 percent from February 2011, and 7.3 percent above last year. Gasoline stations sales were up 16.7 percent from March 2010 and nonstore retailers sales were up 12.4 percent from last year.

Obviously, inflating Oil (NYSE:USO) prices are adding to gross revenues for gasoline sales. So, although retail sales are up for the ninth month in a row, drilling down to the details shows a weakening trend. If we strip out gas station sales, retail sales were up a very small 0.1%.

Motor vehicles sales dropped 1.7%. Nevertheless, Toyota Motor Corporation (NYSE:TM) is up 1.3%, Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) is up 0.4%, General Motors (NYSE:GM) is up 0.3%, and Honda Motor Company (NYSE:HMC) is up over 3%.