States retail sales and forecasts on the rise

September 6, 2011
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More Michigan retailers improved their sales in July, as well as their expectations for the rest of summer and early fall, according to the latest Michigan Retail Index survey conducted by Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

The future-outlook portion of the Index rose by nearly 11 points, while current performance rose by 1.5 points.

“It appears that hot weather and cooling gas prices in July helped retail sales,” said James P. Hallan, MRA president and CEO. “And retailers were more optimistic, despite the prolonged debt-ceiling debate in Congress and mixed economic news at the global, national and state levels.”

Nationally, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that retail sales climbed 0.5 percent for the month, the best in four months. Michigan’s results were the best since February.

The Michigan Retail Index for July found that 48 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year, while 36 percent recorded declines and 16 percent saw no change. The results create a seasonally adjusted performance index of 53.6, up from 52.1 in June and the best since 55.2 in February.

Index values above 50 generally indicate an increase in overall retail activity.

Looking forward, 59 percent of retailers expect sales during August-October to increase over the same period last year, while 15 percent project a decrease and 26 percent see no change. That puts the seasonally adjusted outlook index at 74.5, up from 63.7 in June and the highest of the year.

Furniture and appliance retailers, department and variety stores, and jewelers reported the strongest sales.

William Strauss is senior economist and economic advisor with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

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