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Weekly economic review & outlook Consumer activity takes a virus dive

April 20, 2020

You Need to Know

Week in review

Retailers feel the pinch from social distancing

Retail sales plunged in March by 8.7 percent, centered on reduced spending on autos, gasoline, and food away from home.

Housing starts pull back sharply in March

Fewer new builds were started in March as builders expect an extended reduction in demand and foot traffic for new homes this year.

Week Ahead

Forecasts

Existing and new home sales move in opposite directions

Existing home sales are expected to climb while new sales should fall because of the difference in when they are counted – existing sales are lagged a month relative to new.

Durable goods orders expected to plummet

One of the steepest declines ever for durable goods orders is expected in a month where Boeing had 150 canceled orders.

The 8.7 percent monthly decline in retail sales for March was a record by a significant margin. Sales of motor vehicles (down by 25.6 percent), of gasoline (down by 17.2 percent), and at restaurants (down by 26.5 percent) were especially weak, driven by the sudden stop hitting the U.S. economy. Core retail sales (excluding autos, gasoline, and building supplies) actually rose by 1.7 percent — lifted by the surge in spending at grocery and general merchandise stores as consumers stocked up for the lockdown and ate their meals at home rather than out.

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