States retailers post better than expected quarter

July 2, 2012
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LANSING — Retail sales showed continued strength across Michigan in May, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

The 100-point Index rose more than nine points to 61.9, the highest level since January’s 63.8. Michigan retailers’ three-month forecasts also rose, by more than eight points to 77.5, also best since January’s 78.

“The results were stronger than expected, given a small rise in the state and national unemployment rates and falling retail sales across the nation in April and May,” said MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan. “Michigan consumers appeared more resilient as our state continued its comeback from longer and more severe economic problems than those in other states.”

The Michigan Retail Index for May found that 56 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 23 percent recorded declines and 21 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 61.9, up from 52.6 in April. A year ago May, it was 53.5.

The index gauges the performance of the state’s overall retail industry, based on monthly surveys conducted by MRA and the Federal Reserve. Index values above 50 generally indicate positive activity; the higher the number, the stronger the activity.

Looking forward, 66 percent of retailers expect sales during June-August to increase over the same period last year, while 11 percent project a decrease and 23 percent no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 77.5, up from 69.2 in April. A year ago May, it was 60.5.

National retail sales declined 0.2 percent in both May and April, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

William Strauss is a senior economist and economic advisor with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He can be reached at (312) 322-8151.

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