Retail sales falter in September, posting first decline in 7 months

U.S. retail sales fell for the first time in seven months in September, according to new figures released Wednesday, suggesting a weak manufacturing sector is beginning to drag on the broader economy.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday that retail sales shrank by 0.3 percent in September, well below analyst expectations of 0.3 percent growth. August data meanwhile was revised upward to 0.6 percent, from the initially reported 0.4 percent.

Auto sales fell almost 1 percent, dealers said, marking the steepest drop in eight months after accelerating 1.8 percent in August. Sales at gas stations also slumped 0.7 percent, likely reflecting cheaper gas prices.

The sudden pullback in spending suggests the economy is softer than initially believed, amid concerns the U.S-China trade war -- and the hundreds of billions of dollars of tariffs -- are beginning to weigh on recession-weary American consumers.

Consumer spending contributes a big chunk to the U.S. GDP, and a slowdown in spending could lend way to a sluggish economy overall.

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The latest retail sales come on the heels of a slew of bad economic data in the U.S., including the biggest manufacturing contraction in more than a decade as well as a disappointing services sector reading.