By Geoffrey Smith
Investing.com — U.S. retail sales cratered in March as state-wide lockdowns began to spread across the country in response to the Covid-19 epidemic.
Official data released Wednesday showed sales fell 8.7% from February, nearly three times as much as the sharpest monthly drop during the financial crisis in 2008. That was worse than the 8.0% drop forecast by analysts ahead of the release.
Core sales, which strip out auto sales, fell by 4.5%, marginally better than the 4.8% expected.
“Losses were broad based with the exception of grocers and pharmacies and big box discounters,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist for Grant Thornton, via Twitter. She noted that online sales fared “ok but not spectacular.”
As most lockdowns occurred only after popular festivals such as Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day, the full impact on bars and restaurants was not reflected in the data.
“For March at least there’s likely to be a very uneven pattern to retail sales and that’s going to be very difficult to interpret,” UBS Global Wealth Management chief economist Paul Donovan said in a morning note.
There was, however, clear evidence of the pandemic’s especially sharp impact on the state of New York, which has lost some 9,000 to the Covid-19 virus so far. The New York Empire State Manufacturing index plunged to a record low of -78.2 for April. Its previous record low had been set in February 2009 at -38.2
U.S. Retail Sales Fell 8.7% in March, Most on Record
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