Spending at U.S. retailers declined in June for the second straight month.
Retail sales -- a measure of consumer spending at stores, restaurants and websites -- decreased a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in June from the prior month, the Commerce Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a 0.1% rise.
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Retail sales had declined a revised 0.1% in May. It was the first back-to-back sales drop since July and August 2016.
Friday's report was "soft, though not calamitous," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. He said in a note to clients he still expects a future rebound in the sales data, "but our patience is being tested." Excluding autos, sales were down 0.2% last month; economists had expected a 0.2% gain. Excluding both autos and gasoline, sales fell 0.1% in June, the first decline for the measure in nearly a year.
In the second quarter, total retail sales were up just 0.2% from the first three months of the year. Overall retail sales rose 3.9% in the first half of 2017 compared with the same period a year earlier, well outpacing the recent trend for consumer-price inflation.
Data on retail sales can be volatile from month to month, aren't adjusted for price changes and don't include spending on most services such as housing and health care. June's 0.2% decline from the prior month came with a 0.5 percentage point margin of error.
Consumer spending is the main engine of the U.S. economy, accounting for more than two-thirds of total economic output. Household outlays slowed during the first quarter but appeared to rebound in the spring, despite the recent signs of weakness.
"Growth in household spending, which was weak earlier in the year, has picked up in recent months and continues to be supported by job gains, rising household wealth and favorable consumer sentiment," Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen told lawmakers this week. Gasoline-station sales fell 1.3% in June from the prior month and dropped 3.6% in the second quarter from the prior three months, according to the Commerce Department report. Global oil prices have moved lower in recent months, helping drive down the price of gasoline and the dollar value of sales at gas stations.
Sales were uneven across other categories last month. Spending fell at grocery stores and restaurants, but rose at auto dealerships and building-material-and-garden-equipment shops.
U.S. retail chains have announced thousands of store closures this year, as American shoppers increasingly shift their spending from brick-and-mortar stores to e-commerce platforms like Amazon.com.
Sales at department stores fell 0.7% last month and were down 3.9% from June 2016. Sales at nonstore retailers, mostly online-shopping outlets, were up 0.4% from May and rose 9.2% on the year.
"Consumer shopping habits are rapidly adapting to evolving and new retail formats, and their lifestyles are increasingly influenced by pervasive social and digital media and mobile technology," PepsiCo Inc. Chief Executive Indra Nooyi told analysts Tuesday.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 14, 2017 10:01 ET (14:01 GMT)