(Bloomberg) -- Slumping US new car sales in May on continued high prices and low inventories have some analysts worried those lower-than-expected results could be a harbinger of a broader economic downturn.
Sales of new cars last month fell to 12.8 million vehicles at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, representing an 11% drop from April, according to data compiled by Wards Intelligence. That is the lowest level since December and reflects shrunken inventories amid a persistent shortage of semiconductors and near record-high vehicle prices.
With increasing worries about macroeconomic headwinds, two analysts registered concern the downbeat data could be a taste of tougher times to come -- even as automakers expect a recovery as supply-chain woes ease.
“The market appears increasingly concerned about the economy, inflation, rising interest rates and a recession,” Joseph Spak, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said in a research note to clients published Thursday.
Read more: US Economy Shows Signs of Downshifting as Rates, Inflation Bite
While Spak said there are no signs of “demand destruction” in the latest data, a recession would likely keep new monthly car sales in the low 12 million range -- not far off from the rate seen in May. He lowered his demand forecast for the year to 14.7 million from 15.2 million.
Sales were slow enough last month that Daiwa analyst Jairam Nathan cut his firm’s 2022 SAAR estimate from 16 million to 15 million with “further downside likely.”
May had three fewer selling days than April, and both Spak and Nathan noted that the daily selling rates were basically flat with April. But that wasn’t much consolation as May is typically a month where automakers see a sales bump.
Evercore ISI analysts wrote in a note that despite disappointment over the “sour” sales in May that undercut expectations, “fears of a broad-based consumer slowdown” haven’t shown up in consumer demand surveys.
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.