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Smoke on Cars

Auto Market Weekly Summary


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Article Highlights

  1. Record decline in retail sales for April.
  2. Joblessness keeps growing
  3. Indications are for higher auto sales.

The peak in daily new COVID-19 cases was three weeks ago, and case growth appears to be on a declining trend for the U.S. overall, but some markets are still seeing growth. Testing is ramping up but remains inadequate.

Joblessness grows: The damage to the economy can be seen in a record decline in retail sales in April and continued growth in unemployment. About 36.5 million Americans have applied for unemployment compensation over the last eight weeks as of the week that ended May 8.

Retail sales decline: The lockdowns related to COVID-19 again weighed heavily on retail sales in April, as sales fell 16.4% from March, which was a record decline. Apparel, food service, furniture, electronics and sporting goods saw the biggest declines. Even food sales saw a decline of 13.1% as the hoarding in March held down April sales of groceries. Online sales increased 8.4%.

Consumer sentiment bumpy: Consumer sentiment declined the last couple of days last week as the stock market was down for the week. The initial May reading on Consumer Sentiment from the University of Michigan increased in April, driven by an improving view of current conditions.

Consumers reported improving buying conditions for vehicles and homes. The improvement in the Michigan Survey was no surprise as we’ve seen stable to slight improvement in consumer sentiment for most of May on a timelier measure of consumer sentiment that we track from Morning Consult.

However, that gauge declined late last week to the lowest level of consumer sentiment in 20 days. This recent decline has coincided with a more volatile stock market that declined for the week and more Americans filed for unemployment benefits.

Auto sales rising: Auto sales and our leading indicators show that May has continued to build upon the improvement that began in April. More businesses are opening up, and we continue to see improvement in auto sales. We estimate that new-vehicle sales through Thursday, May 14, are down 31% year over year, while used-vehicle sales are down only 6% from a year ago.

Check back tomorrow for a video that will include updated data.

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