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Retail Sales in U.S. Decline in August by More Than Forecast

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Consumer Prices

Sales at U.S. retailers dropped more than forecast in August, indicating a pause in recent consumer-spending strength that has carried the economy.

Purchases declined 0.3 percent from July, the first drop in five months, after a revised 0.1 percent advance in the previous month, Commerce Department figures showed Thursday in Washington. The median projection of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.1 percent decline. Excluding cars, sales unexpectedly fell 0.1 percent.

An easing in vehicle buying matched a lackluster performance elsewhere, with sales falling in seven of 12 retail categories outside autos. While low borrowing costs, cheap gasoline prices and steady job gains should keep a floor under demand, wage growth remains slow and sustained weakness in consumer spending could limit any second-half economic rebound.

“This is not a good report, for the most part,” said Chris Christopher, director of consumer economics at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. “The consumer’s doing relatively well — even with these numbers, it’s one of the strongest parts of the economy. There’s modest inflation, real disposable income gains are relatively robust, and they feel pretty confident.”

The report represents one of the last major data releases before Federal Reserve policy makers meet next week to debate raising interest rates. While officials are split on the urgency to increase borrowing costs, most investors and economists expect the central bank to hold off this month.

Jobless Claims

Other data releases on Thursday showed the number of applications for unemployment benefits barely rose last week, remaining close to a four-decade low. Wholesale prices in the U.S. were little changed in August.

Estimates of retail sales in the Bloomberg survey ranged from a decline of 0.8 percent to a 0.2 percent gain. July’s figure was revised from an initially reported reading of no change.

Core sales, the figures that are used to calculate gross domestic product and which exclude such categories as autos, gasoline stations and building materials, declined 0.1 percent last month. July’s reading was revised to a 0.1 percent decrease after an initially reported reading of no change.

Purchases at auto dealers dropped 0.9 percent and those at service stations fell 0.8 percent as fuel costs were slightly lower on average in August.

The auto figures are in line with industry data showing a slowdown. Sales of cars and light trucks eased to a 16.91 million annualized rate in August after 17.77 million in July that was the strongest in eight months, according to Ward’s Automotive Group figures.

Outside of autos, purchases fell 1.4 percent at building materials stores and dropped by the same percentage at sellers of sporting goods, books and music. Food and beverage store spending was up 0.3 percent and clothing gained 0.7 percent.

The decline in retail sales excluding autos follows a 0.4 percent decrease in July that was revised lower, according to Thursday’s report. They were projected to increase 0.2 percent, according to the Bloomberg survey median.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Crude Oil

Oil Rises as Threat of Immediate Iran Supply Recedes

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Oil prices rose on Tuesday, with Brent gaining for a fourth consecutive session, as the prospect of extra supply coming to the market soon from Iran faded with talks dragging on over the United States rejoining a nuclear agreement with Tehran.

Brent crude was up by 82 cents, or 1.13%, to $73.68 per barrel, having risen 0.2% on Monday. U.S. oil gained 91 cents, or 1.3%, to $71.79 a barrel, having slipped 3 cents in the previous session.

Indirect discussions between the United States and Iran, along with other parties to the 2015 deal on Tehran’s nuclear program, resumed on Saturday in Vienna and were described as “intense” by the European Union.

A U.S. return to the deal would pave the way for the lifting of sanctions on Iran that would allow the OPEC member to resume exports of crude.

It is “looking increasingly unlikely that we will see the U.S. rejoin the Iranian nuclear deal before the Iranian Presidential Elections later this week,” ING Economics said in a note.

Other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) along with major producers including Russia — a group known as OPEC+ — have been withholding output to support prices amid the pandemic.

“Additional supply from OPEC+ will be needed over the second half of this year, with demand expected to continue its recovery,” ING said.

To meet rising demand, U.S. drillers are also increasing output.

U.S. crude production from seven major shale formations is forecast to rise by about 38,000 barrels per day (bpd) in July to around 7.8 million bpd, the highest since November, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its monthly outlook.

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Rise as Demand Improves, Supplies Tighten

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Oil Prices - Investors King

Oil prices rose on Monday, hitting their highest levels in more than two years supported by economic recovery and the prospect of fuel demand growth as vaccination campaigns in developed countries accelerate.

Brent was up 53 cents, or 0.7%, at $73.22 a barrel by 1050 GMT, its highest since May 2019.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate gained 44 cents, or 0.6%, to $71.35 a barrel, its highest since October 2018.

“The two leading crude markers are trading at (almost) two-and-a-half-year highs amid a potent bullish cocktail of demand optimism and OPEC+ supply cuts,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.

“This backdrop of strengthening oil fundamentals have helped underpin heightened levels of trading activity.”

Motor vehicle traffic is returning to pre-pandemic levels in North America and much of Europe, and more planes are in the air as anti-coronavirus lockdowns and other restrictions are being eased, driving three weeks of increases for the oil benchmarks.

The mood was also buoyed by the G7 summit where the world’s wealthiest Western countries sought to project an image of cooperation on key issues such as recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the donation of 1 billion vaccine doses to poor nations.

“If the inoculation of the global population accelerates further, that could mean an even faster return of the demand that is still missing to meet pre-Covid levels,” said Rystad Energy analyst Louise Dickson.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Friday that it expected global demand to return to pre-pandemic levels at the end of 2022, more quickly than previously anticipated.

IEA urged the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies, known as OPEC+, to increase output to meet the rising demand.

The OPEC+ group has been restraining production to support prices after the pandemic wiped out demand in 2020, maintaining strong compliance with agreed targets in May.

On the supply side, heavy maintenance seasons in Canada and the North Sea also helped prices stay high, Dickson said.

U.S. oil rigs in operation rose by six to 365, the highest since April 2020, energy services company Baker Hughes Co said in its weekly report.

It was the biggest weekly increase of oil rigs in a month, as drilling companies sought to benefit from rising demand.

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Crude Oil

FG Spends N197.74 Billion on Subsidy in Q1 2021

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Crude oil - Investors King

The Federal Government has spent a total sum of N197.74 billion on fuel subsidy in the first quarter (Q1) of 2021, according to the Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) report for May.

The report noted that the value of shortfall, the amount the NNPC paid as subsidy, in the March receipts stood at N111.97 billion while N60.40 billion was paid in February.

In the three months ended March, the Federal Government spent N197.74 billion on subsidy.

The increase in subsidy was a result of rising oil prices, Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, rose to $73.13 per barrel on Monday.

The difference in landing price and selling price of a single litre is the subsidy paid by the government.

On May 19, the Nigerian Governors Forum suggested that the Federal Government removed the subsidy completely and pegged the pump price of PMS at N380 per litre.

The governors’ suggestion followed the non-remittance of the NNPC into the April FAAC payments, the money required by most states to meet their expenditure such as salaries and building of infrastructure.

However, experts have said Nigeria is not gaining from the present surge in global oil prices given the huge money spent on subsidy.

Kalu Aja, Abuja-based financial planner and economic expert, said “If Nigeria is importing Premium Motor Spirit and still paying subsidy, then there is no seismic shift.”

“Nigeria needs oil at $130 to meet the deficit. In the short term, however, more dollar cash flow is expected and with depreciated Naira, it will reduce short term deficit.”

Adedayo Bakare, a research analyst, said that the current prices do not really mean much for the country economically.

He said, “The ongoing transition away from fossil fuels and weak oil production from the output cuts by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries will not make the country benefit much from the rising oil prices.

“Oil production used to be over two million barrels but now around 1.5 million barrels. We need OPEC to relax the output cuts for the naira to gain.”

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