Chicago Fed Advance Retail Trade Summary (CARTS)

CARTS provides a summary measure of multiple high-frequency indicators for consumer spending (including payment card transactions, retail foot traffic, gas sales, and consumer sentiment). Learn more about the data and methodologies underlying this index.

For more details on CARTS v. 2.0, see the recent Chicago Fed Insights post. Later this month, we will update the accompanying Chicago Fed Working Paper #2021-05 as well. The current version of the working paper serves as legacy documentation for CARTS v. 1.0.

More on CARTS

What Was in Your Holiday CARTS? Resuming Our Index Tracking National Retail Spending

Chicago Fed Insights | January 16, 2024
In this Chicago Fed Insights article, we unveil version 2.0 of our Chicago Fed Advance Retail Trade Summary (CARTS) and provide a preview of what it signals for retail spending during the 2023 holiday season in the United States.

Introducing CARTS: A New Index Tracking National Retail Spending

Chicago Fed Insights | July 12, 2021
During the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic in the U.S., the speed with which economic activity responded to the spread of the virus and the public policy responses that followed laid bare the need for both accurate and timely measures of consumer spending. In this Chicago Fed Insights blog post, we discuss a new Chicago Fed index called CARTS and its implications for the high-frequency measurement of consumer spending.

Tracking U.S. Consumers in Real Time with a New Weekly Index of Retail Trade (REVISED November 2021)

Working Papers | March 2021
We create a new weekly index of retail trade that accurately predicts the U.S. Census Bureau's Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MRTS). The index's weekly frequency provides an early snapshot of the MRTS and allows for a more granular analysis of the aggregate consumer response to fast-moving events such as the Covid-19 pandemic. To construct the index, we extract the co-movement in weekly data series capturing credit and debit card transactions, foot traffic, gasoline sales, and consumer sentiment. To ensure that the index is representative of aggregate retail spending, we implement a benchmarking method that uses a mixed-frequency dynamic factor model to constrain the weekly index to match the monthly MRTS. We use the index to document several interesting features of U.S. retail sales during the Covid-19 pandemic, many of which are not visible in the MRTS. In addition, we show that our index would have more accurately predicted the MRTS in real time during the pandemic when compared to either consensus forecasts available, monthly autoregressive models, or other commonly-cited high-frequency data that aims to track retail spending. The gains are substantial, with 50 percent or more reductions in mean absolute forecast errors.
Subscribe to CARTS

To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your contact information below.

Contact Us
Having trouble accessing something on this page? Please send us an email and we will get back to you as quickly as we can.

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, 230 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois 60604-1413, USA. Tel. (312) 322-5322

Copyright © 2024. All rights reserved.

Please review our Privacy Policy | Legal Notices