Published: Sat, September 16, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

US Retail Sales Dip Unexpectedly Amid Steep Drop In Auto Sales

US Retail Sales Dip Unexpectedly Amid Steep Drop In Auto Sales

Analysts said the retail sales report showed some of the effects of Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in the last week of August.

Excluding autos and gas, which tend to be volatile from month to month, sales dipped 0.1 per cent in August after having risen 0.5 per cent in July. Non-store Retailers were up 8.4% (±1.6%) from August 2016, while Building Materials and Garden Equipment and Supplies Dealers were up 7.5% (±1.9%) from past year.

The unexpected decrease in retail sales largely reflected the sharp drop in sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers, which plunged by 1.6% in August after coming in unchanged in July. Ex-auto sales had been expected to increase by 0.5%.

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Retail trade sales fell 0.3% in August from July, but rose 3.3% year over year, according to the latest monthly report from the U.S. Commerce Department's Census Bureau, released Friday. Nonstore retailer sales are up 8.4% year-over-year as online retailers continue to grow their market share. A poll of economists had forecast that retail sales would be flat compared with sales in August 2016.

Sales at general merchandise stores, which includes big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target, were up 0.2 percent although sales at department stores including Macy's, edged down 0.1 percent.

Auto sales fell 1.6% last month, the biggest fall since January, which was put partly down to Harvey.

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"Overall, consumers remain in good shape, despite the ups and downs that will be in the data in the months ahead", Mr Faucher said.

The increases were partly offset by notable declines in sales by non-store retailers, clothing and accessories stores and electronics and appliance stores. That reflects higher prices at the pump. They nudged up at home furnishings stores and grocery stores.

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