Shopper spending rebounded in February, in response to the CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor

Customers shop in a Walmart Supercenter on February 20, 2024 in Hallandale Beach, Florida. 

Joe Raedle | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Consumer spending bounced back in February from a January dip, with a little help from Leap Day. But sales still registered good gains even after correcting for that extra spending day.

The CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor, derived from actual credit card spending data from Affinity Solutions, rose 1.06% in February, when excluding autos and gas. It increased 0.95% when taking out restaurants as well, the Retail Monitor’s core measure.

Removing the effect of the Leap Day, sales rose 0.4%, or less than half of the unadjusted gain, but they were still up from the 0.2% decline in January. Taking out restaurants, the Retail Monitor adjusted for the Leap Day was up 0.3%, compared with a 0.04% gain in January.

“While the future direction of interest rates and inflation remains uncertain, it’s clear that a strong job market and increases in real wages are continuing to support spending,” said Matt Shay, the president of the National Retail Federation.

Looking at individual sectors, not adjusted of the Leap Day:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 0.8% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 18.08% year over year.
  • Sporting goods, hobby, music and bookstores were up 2.29% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 13.67% year over year.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 0.96% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 11.18% year over year.
  • Clothing and accessories stores were up 0.51% month over month and up 8.05% year over year unadjusted.

The sector data was also impacted by the Leap Day and the index overall could differ more sharply this month from the Census retail data than it normally does.

Unlike survey-based numbers collected by the Census Bureau, the Retail Monitor uses actual, anonymized credit and debit card purchase data compiled by Affinity and is not revised monthly or annually.

Economists are looking for a 0.8% gain in the Census retail report on Thursday, a complete reversal of the 0.8% decline in January. So both that forecast, if accurate, and the CNBC/NRF Monitor for February, suggest January was the not the beginning of the long-awaited consumer spending slowdown.

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