U.S. Retail Sales Jumped 0.6% in July

By Josh Mitchell and Sarah ChaneyFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

U.S. retailers posted their strongest sales growth all year in July, as Americans shelled out more on a range of goods and took advantage of Amazon.com's annual discount day.

Sales at retailers and restaurants jumped 0.6% from a month earlier, the biggest increase since December, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Excluding cars, sales rose 0.5%.

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Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a 0.4% jump in both categories.

The report underscores financial stability and rising confidence of American households, who are benefiting from various factors. Those include a booming stock market, low inflation, strong job growth and slow-but-steady wage gains. The jump in sales could portend a pickup in economic growth in coming months, given that consumer spending accounts for the bulk of economic output in the U.S.

Sales over the internet drove last month's increase, with spending at nonstore retailers growing 1.3%, the most since December. One big factor: Amazon's Prime Day, a popular day of discounts at the site.

Other retailers also posted strong gains. Car sales jumped 1.2%, as did spending on building materials and garden equipment. Sales at furniture outlets, grocery stores, restaurants and department stores all rose healthily.

Meanwhile, spending on gasoline, electronics and clothing fell.

Monthly sales figures are imprecise and don't account for inflation. Last month's gain came with a margin of error of plus or minus half a percentage point. But the broader trend, which irons out volatility, suggests healthy growth. Overall retail sales have climbed 4.2% over the past year.

The Commerce Department's latest retail-sales report can be accessed at:https://www.census.gov/retail/marts/www/marts_current.pdf

Write to Josh Mitchell at joshua.mitchell@wsj.com and Sarah Chaney atsarah.chaney@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 15, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)