Wall Street experts who blamed the economic slowdown this year on the brutal winter weather are being left out in the cold.
April's retail numbers called into question the broader narrative that the dismal first-quarter numbers were an anomaly that would not be repeated. The Commerce Department on Wednesday reported sales of $436.8 billion, virtually unchanged from March despite expectations that the economy was about to turn the corner and amid estimates that sales would grow at least a meager 0.2 percent.
The result has been a further dimming in hopes for second-quarter growth. The Federal Reserve's Atlanta branch cut its GDPNow forecast for the second quarter to 0.7 percent, far lower than consensus hopes for a 3.3 percent gain. A subsequent report showing a 0.3 percent decline for import prices in April added to low-growth expectations.
"The continuing weakness of retail sales in April brings into question our working assumption that the soft patch through the winter months was largely due to the unseasonably cold temperatures in the Northeast," Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients.