WASHINGTON, Oct 15 — Retail sales in the United States, a motor of growth, slowed unexpectedly in September as Americans bought less gasoline, and shopped and dined out less, according to government figures released today.
Auto sales were a bright spot, however, making the difference between a negative and a positive month, the Commerce Department report showed.
The result put a lacklustre finish on the third quarter but economists said the numbers included some signs of strength.
Total retail sales gained 0.1 per cent in September to a seasonally-adjusted US$509 billion (RM2.1 billion), marking the eighth consecutive monthly increase, the department said.
But economists had been expecting a far larger 0.6 per cent gain.
Even with the modest increase, the result put sales 4.7 per cent higher than September of last year.
Autos sales rose 0.8 per cent, more than making up from the dip in August, but sales at gas stations fell 0.8 per cent.
Excluding the volatile auto sector, monthly retail sales fell 0.1 per cent, also undershooting analysts’ forecasts for a 0.4 per cent gain.
In addition to flagging fuel sales, the monthly number was dragged down by declining business at bars and restaurants, department and grocery stores as well as health and beauty stores.
On the other hand furniture, electronics, building supply and clothing outlets all rose.
And “non-store” retailers like Amazon continued their upward march, adding 1.1 per cent in sales volume, putting that sector up more than 11 per cent year-on-year.
Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said today the dip in bars and restaurants followed strong growth in the summer, meaning the sector was still above prior trends and further declines were likely.
But a “control” series within the September report, which tracks sales excluding the volatile segments — autos, gas, restaurants and building materials — posted a 0.5 per cent increase over the prior month.
That means third-quarter consumer spending likely matched the 3.8 per cent rise in the April-June quarter.
However, he the uptick is “likely is due to the tax cuts so it won’t be sustained,” he wrote in a client note. — AFP
Source: The Malay Mail Online