January Retail Sales Saw Biggest Decline in 11 Months

Image courtesy of Creative Commons user

Image courtesy of Creative Commons user

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday that retail sales decreased 0.3 percent last month, the largest decline since February 2017.

The January decline, following no change in December, was the largest setback since a 0.5 per cent fall in February of previous year, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

The slowdown comes after a three-month stretch of robust consumer activity, from September through November, which had fueled the best holiday sales recorded in a decade.

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Economists were not too concerned, saying they continue to expect solid gains in coming months, as long as the recent stock market turmoil does not undermine consumer confidence.

There were $492.0 billion in retail and food service sales in January, down 0.3% from the previous month but up 3.6% from January 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. "In any case, with jobs growth still strong, consumer confidence at an unusually high level and the recent tax cuts providing a one-off boost to disposable incomes this month, the near-term prospects for consumer spending remain fairly bright". And furniture stores lost 0.4 percent from December to January, but gained 4.7 percent for the year. A few categories gained both in monthly and annual sales, such as (remarkably) department stores, up 0.8 percent for the month and 0.4 percent for the year, perhaps because numerous category's weakest stores have already closed.

The booming internet shopping sector was flat in January, but is still 10.2 per cent higher than a year ago.

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The entire monthly decline can be accounted for by auto and auto part sales, which were down by 1.3 percent for the month. The economy grew at a 2.6 percent pace in the final three months of 2017. That was a significant improvement from modest annual growth rates of around 2 per cent the US experienced during the economic recovery, now in its ninth year. Receipts at clothing stores increased 1.2 percent.

Sales were down 0.3%, missing expectations of a 0.2% rise and posting their biggest drop in almost a year.

That was double the estimate for deficits that Trump made in his first budget past year.

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