Retail Sales Drop 0.8% January, Flat Excluding Gas

Retail sales fell in January for the second month in a row as drivers spent a lot less on gasoline, but consumers still aren't splurging despite a rapid pickup in hiring and an improved U.S. economy. Retail sales declined by a seasonally adjusted 0.8% last month after an unrevised 0.9% drop in December, the government said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 0.6% decrease. Sales at gas stations slumped 9.3%, the biggest pullback since 2008, amid a plunge in oil prices. Excluding gas stations, overall retail spending was flat. Sales rose for Internet stores and restaurants, two of the largest retail categories. But sales declined at auto dealers, home-furnishing stores, grocery chains, department stores, apparel retailers and outlets that sell sporting goods, the Commerce Department said. Sales minus autos fell 0.9% in January, while sales minus autos and gasoline rose 0.2%.

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