Retail sales slip
Retail sales decreased 1.3% from the previous month in May, according to the Department of Commerce retail report issued June 15. However, compared with one year ago – in the early days of the pandemic lockdown – sales were up 28.1%. Total sales for the three-month period of March through May were up 36.2% from the same period a year ago.
Auto sales were down 3.7% for the month in May – but up 34.8% from a year earlier. Building material sales were down 5.9% for the month, but up 10.5% from a year earlier; electronics and appliance stores were down 3.4% for the month but up 91.3% from a year earlier; and department store sales were up 1.6% for the month and up 28.0% from a year earlier. Clothing sales were up 200.3% from a year earlier and up 3.0% from the previous month.
Restaurants and bars continued to benefit from the recovery, with the food services and drinking places category up 1.8% for the month and 70.6% from a year earlier. As consumers stepped up their in-store shopping, non-store retailers (primarily online) dropped for the second straight month, down 0.8%. But sales were still up 7.9% from a year earlier.
Unemployment claims continue to drop
Unemployment claims have continued to edge down as businesses reopen and the economy rebounds, according to the DOL. In the week ending June 26, there were a total of 364,000 unemployment claims, which was a decrease of 51,000 from the previous week. The 4-week moving average of 392,750 – which was 6,000 below the previous week's average – marked the lowest level since March 14, 2020 at the start of the pandemic.
The U.S. unemployment rate was little changed in June, edging up from 5.8% to 5.9%, despite the addition of 850,000 new jobs, according to the DOL Employment Situation Report issued July 2. Average hourly earnings increased by $0.10 in June to $30.40.
Real estate, Information Technology and Energy lead 2nd quarter returns
The Real Estate sector of the S&P 500 was up 13.09% in the 2nd quarter to lead all sectors, followed by Information Technology, up 11.56%, Energy, up 11.30%, and Communication Services, up 10.72%. Through the first six months of 2021, Energy led all sectors, up 45.64%, followed by Financials, up 25.69%, and Real Estate, up 23.30%.
The chart below shows the results of the 11 sectors for the past month, past quarter and year-to-date: