Published: Mon, September 18, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

US August Retail Sales Fell 0.2%, Limited Market Reaction

US August Retail Sales Fell 0.2%, Limited Market Reaction

Excluding the volatile auto sector, retail sales rose 0.2 percent, down from July's 0.4 percent.

Overall retail sales increased 3.2 percent in August on a year-on-year basis.

Nonstore Retailers were up 8.4% from August 2016, while Building Materials and Garden Equipment and Supplies Dealers were up 7.5% from a year ago.

The report also drew a more somber picture of the prior two months, with sharp downward revisions for June and July, suggesting consumption may offer less support to GDP growth in the third quarter than initially hoped. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

There was a monthly decline of 0.2% in the control group after a 0.6% gain the previous month.

General merchandise stores increased 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted over July and increased 3.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Recovery and rebuilding efforts following hurricanes Harvey and Irma should boost such sales.

Sales were stronger across a broad range of products.

The monthly result was still up 3.2 percent over July 2016.

The Commerce Department reported Friday it could not isolate retail and food services activity by geographic region, meaning the storm's full impact was unclear.

The weak retail sales and industrial output reports prompted the Atlanta Fed to slash its third-quarter GDP estimate to a 2.2 percent rate from a 3.0 percent pace.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of USA economic activity, increased at a 3.3 percent annualized rate in the second quarter. Another factor, they said, was some payback from July, when sales had been augmented by the Amazon Prime Day sales promotions.

For August, gasoline sales were up 2.5 percent, the biggest jump since last December. Sales at electronics and appliance stores fell 0.7 percent and receipts at clothing stores dropped 1.0 percent after rising 0.5 percent in July. Grocery store sale were up 0.3% month over month and up 1.9% year over year.

In addition to month-to-month volatility, weakness in online sales could be partly due to low inflation, as retailers lower prices, but struggle to drive traffic.

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