US Macro Updates

The One Stop Portal for US Macroeconomic Data. Simplified and Summarized! 

We simplify and summarize key data so that you don’t have to spend hours reading confusing and long media releases. Read key economic releases and major events here in under 2 minutes. And we will explain the key takeaway for you. Stay informed and form a robust view on macroeconomic matters to aid your successful investment decisions

25th Apr 2024

Advance Monthly Retail Inventories

Key takeaway: The Census Bureau’s latest Advance report on retail inventories showed Retail inventories increased 0.3% in March compared to the previous month. Core inventories, which exclude motor vehicle and parts, on the other hand recorded a decline in March of 0.1% after having increased 0.3% in February. Over 2H 2023, we had observed that the rate of negative growth in Inventories had been declining i.e. signalling an upward trend in inventory growth and that growth has continued in early 2024 as well. One of the key points to bear in mind is that usually retail inventories jump sharply up during the initial stages of a recession. However, given strong signs of a soft or no landing at all, the increase in inventories seems to be more indicative of an upcoming restocking cycle in anticipation of continued robust consumption patters. Consumption still seems to be robust although there have been some tentative signs of a slowdown in retail sales. The last point to also remember is that Retail Inventories to Sales ratio is still substantially below pre pandemic levels.    

29th Mar 2024

Key takeaway: The Census Bureau’s latest Advance report on retail inventories showed Retail inventories increased 0.5% in February compared to the previous month. It is the 4th month in a row of a strong retail inventory growth print. Core inventories, which exclude motor vehicle and parts, also increased a healthy 0.4% in February after having increased 0.3% in January. Over 2H 2023, we had observed that the rate of negative growth in Inventories had been declining i.e. signalling an upward trend in inventory growth and that growth has continued in early 2024 as well. One of the key points to bear in mind is that usually retail inventories jump sharply up during the initial stages of a recession. However, given strong signs of a soft or no landing at all, the increase in inventories seems to be more indicative of an upcoming restocking cycle in anticipation of continued robust consumption patters. The latest Personal Income report for February 2023 also showed personal consumption expenditures rising at a healthy 0.8% in nominal terms. However, also key to bear in mind that Retail sales data has been a bit underwhelming in the past 2 months. The last point to also remember is that Retail Inventories to Sales ratio is still substantially below pre pandemic levels.    

28th Feb 2024

Key takeaway: The Census Bureau’s latest Advance report on retail inventories showed Retail inventories increased 0.5% in January compared to the previous month. Core inventories, which exclude motor vehicle and parts, also increased a healthy 0.3% in January. Lets take a step back and look at the Retail Inventories picture in detail. Retail Inventories initially shot up through most of 2021 as the pandemic + fiscal stimulus fuelled an unprecedented consumption of goods in the US. The growth rate in Retail Inventories gradually wound down through 2022 and 2023 as the euphoria evaporated. Many market watchers were concerned if there would be a sharp slowdown in sales and a resultant inventory overhang. That story did not materialize as the US consumer kept purchasing. Eventually inventory growth went negative through the 2nd half of 2023. However, over the past few months we had observed that the rate of negative growth in Inventories had been declining i.e. signalling an upward trend in inventory growth. Now, one of the key points to bear in mind is that usually retail inventories jump sharply up during the initial stages of a recession. However, given strong signs of a soft landing, the increase in inventories seems to be more indicative of an upcoming restocking cycle in anticipation of continued robust consumption patters. The last point to also remember is that Retail Inventories to Sales ratio is still substantially below pre pandemic levels.    

25th Jan 2024

Key takeaway: Lets take a step back and look at the Retail Inventories picture in detail. Retail Inventories initially shot up through most of 2021 as the pandemic + fiscal stimulus fuelled an unprecedented consumption of goods in the US. The growth rate in Retail Inventories gradually wound down through 2022 and 2023 as the euphoria evaporated. Many market watchers were concerned if there would be a sharp slowdown in sales and a resultant inventory overhang. That story did not materialize as the US consumer kept purchasing. Eventually inventory growth went negative through the 2nd half of 2023. However, over the past few months we had observed that the rate of negative growth in Inventories had been declining i.e. signalling an upward trend in inventory growth. Now, one of the key points to bear in mind is that usually retail inventories jump sharply up during the initial stages of a recession. However, given strong signs of a soft landing, the increase in inventories seems to be more indicative of an upcoming restocking cycle in anticipation of continued robust consumption patters. The Census Bureau’s latest Advance report on retail inventories showed Retail inventories increased 0.8% in December compared to the previous month. Core inventories, which exclude motor vehicle and parts, also increased a substantial 0.6% in December. The last point to also remember is that Retail Inventories to Sales ratio is still substantially below pre pandemic levels.    

29th Nov 2023

Key takeaway: Retail Inventories had been rising for more than a few months now. However, over the past couple of months that data has moderated a bit. Firstly, the Census Bureau’s Advance report on retail inventories showed Retail inventories were flat 0.0% in October compared to the previous month. Core inventories, which exclude motor vehicle and parts, decreased 0.9% in October. Secondly, core retail inventory growth for September was also revised down from 0.3% to negative 0.4%. Usually retail inventories jump sharply up during the initial stages of a recession. The recent increase in Retail Inventories was hence concerning. However, sales has still been resilient. Retail Inventories to Sales ratio is still substantially below pre pandemic levels. And now the last two months of data has also shown inventories coming down. In summary, even though retail inventories have been steadily rising for the past one year, it is difficult to gauge any recessionary winds on the basis of just that data.   

26th Oct 2023

Key takeaway: Retail Inventories have been rising for more than a few months now. The Census Bureau’s Advance report on retail inventories showed Retail inventories increased 0.9% m-o-m in September. Core inventories, which exclude motor vehicle and parts, also increased 0.3% in September. Usually retail inventories jump sharply up during the initial stages of a recession. While retail inventories have been steadily rising for the past one year, they are still much below pre-pandemic averages. The story so far has been – A build-up in inventories in late 2021 and early 2022. Which was expected to be deflationary in nature. However, US consumers kept surprising everyone with their resilience and those inventories kept getting consumed. The latest retail spending data is still indicative of resilient consumption. How the consumption is being financed – through savings or debt – almost does not matter in this context. Hence. so far the rise in retail inventories is not yet concerning. If anything, it is adding positively to GDP numbers.  

29th Sep 2023

Key takeaway: There has been an interesting divergence in Wholesale inventories and Retail inventories over the past 3 months. Wholesale inventories have been falling and Retail Inventories are rising. The Census Bureau’s Advance report on retail inventories showed Retail inventories increased 1.1% m-o-m in Aug. Core inventories, which exclude motor vehicle and parts, also increased 0.6% in August. Usually retail inventories jump sharply up during the initial stages of a recession. While retail inventories have been steadily rising for the past one year, they are still much below pre-pandemic averages. The story so far has been – A build-up in inventories in late 2021 and early 2022. Which was expected to be deflationary in nature. However, US consumers kept surprising everyone with their resilience and those inventories kept getting consumed. The key event to watch is whether the US consumer shows up once again to consume at the same pace as last year!  The evidence so far, even as late at Q3, still suggests that the US consumer is ready to spend. 

30th Aug 2023

Key takeaway: There has been an interesting divergence in Wholesale inventories and Retail inventories over the past 3 months. Wholesale inventories have been falling and Retail Inventories are rising. The Census Bureau’s Advance report on retail inventories showed Retail inventories increased 0.3% m-o-m in July. Core inventories, which exclude motor vehicle and parts, also increased 0.1% in July. Usually retail inventories jump sharply up during the initial stages of a recession. While retail inventories have been steadily rising for the past one year, they are still much below pre-pandemic averages. The story so far has been – A build-up in inventories in late 2021 and early 2022. Which was expected to be deflationary in nature. However, US consumers kept surprising everyone with their resilience and those inventories kept getting consumed. The key event to watch is whether the US consumer shows up once again to consume at the same pace as last year!  

27th Jul 2023

Key takeaway: There has been an interesting divergence in Wholesale inventories and Retail inventories over the past 3 months. Wholesale inventories have been falling and Retail Inventories are rising. The Census Bureau’s Advance report on retail inventories showed Retail inventories increased 0.7% m-o-m in June. Core inventories, which exclude motor vehicle and parts, also increased 0.4% in June. Usually retail inventories jump sharply up during the initial stages of a recession. While retail inventories have been steadily rising for the past one year, they are still much below pre-pandemic averages. The story so far has been – A build-up in inventories in late 2021 and early 2022. Which was expected to be deflationary in nature. However, US consumers kept surprising everyone with their resilience and those inventories kept getting consumed. The key event to watch is whether the US consumer shows up once again to consume at the same pace as last year!  

28th Jun 2023

Key takeaway: The Census Bureau’s Advance report on retail inventories showed inventories increased 0.8% m-o-m in May. However, core inventories, which exclude motor vehicle and parts, were unchanged at 0% in May. Usually retail inventories jump sharply up during the initial stages of a recession. While retail inventories have been steadily rising for the past one year, they are still much below pre-pandemic averages. The story so far has been – A build-up in inventories in late 2021 and early 2022. Which was expected to be deflationary in nature. However, US consumers kept surprising everyone with their resilience and those inventories kept getting consumed. The key event to watch is whether the US consumer shows up once again to consume at the same pace as last year!  

26th May 2023

Key takeaway: The Census Bureau’s Advance report on retail inventories showed inventories increased 0.2% m-o-m in April. However, core inventories, which exclude motor vehicle and parts, declined 0.1% in April. Retail inventories are gradually inching up in 2023. The story so far has been – A build-up in inventories in late 2021 and early 2022. Which was expected to be deflationary in nature. However, US consumers kept surprising everyone with their resilience and those inventories kept getting consumed. At around the same time last year, Target and Walmart had experienced massive share price drops due to signs of a huge inventory glut. However that inventory was gradually taken down by a resilient US consumer. Inventory levels at general merchandising companies are back to normal levels (as mentioned on the quarterly conference calls of these companies). There are even signs of retailers restocking for the upcoming fall season. Hence the recent increases in retail inventories is not entirely surprising. The key event to watch is whether the US consumer shows up once again to consume at the same pace as last year!  

26th Apr 2023

Key takeaway: The Census Bureau’s Advance report on retail inventories showed a big climb of  0.7% m-o-m. It is worthwhile to narrate the same key takeaway from the previous month. Retail inventories are gradually inching up in 2023. The story so far has been – A build-up in inventories in late 2021 and early 2022. Which was expected to be deflationary in nature. However, US consumers kept surprising everyone with their resilience and those inventories kept getting consumed. Since the last few months, core retail inventories have been inching back up again. Retail inventories ex auto increased 0.4% in Mar 2023 after rising 0.3% in Feb and 0.1% in Jan. And we face the same 2022 question once again – Will the retail consumer continue to display strength or will these increasing inventories finally create a drag on prices? It is hard to ignore the facts – the pandemic era savings have gotten depleted, consumers already borrowed a fair bit in late 2022, banks are tightening lending standards in 2023. Odds are that the consumer will finally wilt! On the other hand the latest advance report on Q1 GDP once again showed a robust US consumer. PCE advanced 3.7% in Q1. That is once again far from being a wilted consumer! Retail inventory to sales ratio has been steadily increasing though still below pre-pandemic levels because of resilient sales. 

28th Mar 2023

Key takeaway: Retail inventories are gradually inching up. The story so far has been – A build-up in inventories in late 2021 and early 2022. Which was expected to be deflationary in nature. However, US consumers kept surprising everyone with their resilience and those inventories kept getting consumed. Since the last few months, core retail inventories have been inching back up again. Retail inventories ex auto increased 0.4% in Feb 2022 after rising 0.1% in Jan. And we face the same 2022 question once again – Will the retail consumer continue to display strength or will these increasing inventories finally create a drag on prices? It is hard to ignore the facts – the pandemic era savings have gotten depleted, consumers already borrowed a fair bit in late 2022, banks are tightening lending standards in 2023. Odds are that the consumer will finally wilt! Retail inventory to sales ratio has been steadily increasing though still below pre-pandemic levels. 

28th Feb 2023

Key takeaway: Retail inventories are gradually inching up. The story so far has been – A build-up in inventories in late 2021 and early 2022. Which was expected to be deflationary in nature. However, US consumers kept surprising everyone with their resilience and those inventories kept getting consumed. Since the last few months, core retail inventories have been inching back up again. And we face the same 2022 question once again – Will the retail consumer continue to display strength or will these increasing inventories finally create a drag on prices? It is hard to ignore the facts – the pandemic era savings have gotten depleted, consumers already borrowed a fair bit in late 2022, banks are tightening lending standards in 2023. Odds are that the consumer will finally wilt! 

26th Jan 2023

Key takeaway: After 3 consecutive months of falling retail inventories, the advance reading for retail inventories recorded a positive gain again (although a relatively small gain at 0.3%).  In general, inventory accumulation had been a noticeable aspect for the better part of 2022 and we had started to see that inventory being cleared in the 2nd half of 2022. However, the advance 4Q GDP release also showed a continued inventory accumulation in Q4 (which added to the GDP growth calculation). With sales visibly slowing, any further inventory glut puts downward pressure on prices and also discourages further business investment. Retail Inventories to Sales though is still significantly below pre-pandemic average levels.

27th Dec 2022

Key takeaway: Retail inventories, in contrast to wholesale inventories have started to demonstrate a slow down in the economic cycle. Core Retail inventories (excluding auto) have fallen now for the past 2 months in a row. While this still does not make a substantial trend, it is noteworthy nonetheless. One reason for inventories falling can be a sustained take up in consumption as retailers try to offer discounts and push through the glut of inventory accumulation that has been a feature of 2022. Unfortunately, this consumption bit still results in a floor below prices and a hindrance to taking down inflation. On the other hand, falling inventories also signify a slowdown in the economic cycle as less goods and services are being produced!

30th Nov 2022

Key takeaway: Wholesale inventories grew once again in October. But retail inventories actually fell in October. The previous month of September had recorded a small but negative drop in core inventories (retail excluding auto). In October, retail ex auto fell 0.4% and headline retail fell 0.2%. Both measures fell more than consensus expectations. One reason for inventories falling can be a sustained take up in consumption as retailers try to offer discounts and push through the glut of inventory accumulation that has been a feature of 2022. Unfortunately, the consumption part still results in a floor below prices and a hindrance to taking down inflation. 

26th Oct 2022

Similar to wholesale inventories, retail inventories also grew at a softer rate in September (0.4%). However, the story in Retail inventories was more nuanced. Retail Inventories excluding motor vehicles and parts actually fell 0.1% – which is more reflective of slowing consumer demand. But unfortunately that slowdown in consumption has just not been as swift as the Fed would like it. Similar to the point made in the Wholesale Inventories section below, once these inventories start falling they will contribute significantly to GDP contraction and the lagging indicators showing a slowing economy will be up for everyone to see. 

28th Sep 2022

Similar to wholesale inventories, retail inventories also grew at a better than expected rate in August (1.4%). While the growth in inventories will add to GDP calculations, the build up does indicate a slowdown in consumption – especially considering goods prices have actually been falling m-o-m. This is what Cathy Wood has been vocal about since the start of the year. In reality though, while inventories have been piling, consumption has remained very resilient and hence that expected deflation in prices from a rapid inventory accumulation has still not been seen.

26th Aug 2022

Similar to the wholesale inventories read, retail inventories also grew, but at a much softer pace, in line with long term historical averages. Inventory accumulation continued to be strong in auto, but core inventories (which go into the GDP calc) grew just 0.4% m-o-m. From a GDP perspective though, consumption has remained stronger that most people expected. That strong consumption together with a relatively better balance of trade picture, is softening the impact of lower inventory buildup on GDP growth rate.

27th Jul 2022

Similar to the wholesale inventories read, customer inventories continue to grow, but at a moderating pace. Since consumption still remains relatively strong, the inventory to sales ratio remains historically low..

28th Jun 2022

The latest release for Monthly Retail Inventories for May 22 is especially interesting when viewed in conjunction with the Advance Monthly Retail Sales number released on 15 June 22. Recall this was the first month in recent history that nominal retail sales actually fell. Retail inventories, on the other hand, increased a robust 1.1% (and 0.8% excl. motor vehicle and parts). A continuing trend of falling sales and building inventories can be taken to be a good leading indicator of a slowing economy.

Retail Inventories measures the change in the total value of goods held in inventory by Retailers.
The retail inventories figure is key since high or low inventory levels reflect weak or strong consumer demand which consequently determines manufacturing production increases or decreases. Retailers’ stock levels also indicate whether GDP is expanding or contracting. The Advance report for the previous month is released in the last week of the subsequent month.

Advance Monthly Retail Trade Report