U.S. Retail Sales Barely Rise, Dented Lower Gas Receipts

Politics Reuters

U.S. retail sales barely rose in September as cheaper gasoline weighed on service station receipts, but gains in purchases of automobiles and other goods pointed to solid domestic demand that could shield the economy from slowing global growth.

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The Commerce Department said on Wednesday retail sales edged up 0.1 percent last month after being flat in August.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales rising 0.2 percent in September after a previously reported 0.2 percent increase in August.

Retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services slipped 0.1 percent after a downwardly revised 0.2 percent gain in August. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.

Core retail sales previously were reported to have advanced 0.4 percent in August. Economists had forecast core retail sales rising 0.3 percent last month.

The mixed report suggests underlying strength in domestic demand despite a weakening global economy and a slowdown in job growth over the past two months, which have diminished expectations of a U.S. rate hike this year.

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Most economists expect the Federal Reserve will raise its benchmark overnight interest rate in December, but financial markets are only pricing in an increase early next year. The U.S. central bank has kept its short-term interest rate near zero since late 2008.

Economic growth has softened in recent months, mainly because of weak exports, declining capital spending in the energy sector due to lower oil prices and a so-called inventory correction, which have hurt manufacturing activity.

In September, receipts at service stations fell 3.2 percent, the largest fall since January, after falling 2.0 percent in August. Excluding gasoline, retail sales increased 0.4 percent last month.

Sales at auto dealerships increased 1.7 percent after rising 0.4 percent in August. Clothing store sales rose 0.9 percent in September. Receipts at building materials and garden equipment stores fell 0.3 percent, while sales at furniture stores rose 0.6 percent.

Receipts at sporting goods and hobby stores increased 0.9 percent and sales at restaurants and bars rose 0.7 percent. Sales at electronics and appliance stores slipped 0.2 percent. Sales at online stores fell 0.2 percent. 

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)


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