August Retail Sales Sink on Weak Auto Sales

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U.S. consumer spending dipped by 0.21% in August, the largest drop of any month so far this year, according to Friday morning’s report from the U.S. Census Bureau on estimated retail sales. A poll of economists had forecast that retail sales would be flat compared with sales in August 2016.

Sales of motor vehicles dropped 1.6% month over month from July as auto sales continued to struggle. Car sales totaled $105.14 billion last month on an unadjusted basis, up from $102.36 billion in July and up from $103.21 billion in August 2016.

Adjusted for seasonal variations and other items, total retail sales for the month came in at $474.8 billion, down 0.21% month over month and 3.2% above the August 2016 total. Total sales for the three-month period between June and August rose 3.2% compared with last year.

Retail trade sales fell 0.3% month over month but rose 3.3% year over year. Nonstore retail sales rose 8.4% year over year. Month over month, however, nonstore retail sales fell 1.1%.

Gasoline station sales rose 2.5% month over month and are up 6.4% year over year. The eight-month total for gas stations is up 8.1% year over year, due largely to higher pump prices.

Electronics stores posted a sales decline of 0.7% month over month and a year-over-year decline of 3.5% in sales. Department stores posted a month-over-month sales decrease of 0.1% and a year-over-year decline of 0.8%.

Sales were stronger across a broad range of products. Furniture and home furnishing stores saw a rise of 0.4% month over month and 7.5% year over year in August. Grocery store sale were up 0.3% month over month and up 1.9% year over year.

Building materials and garden equipment and supplies sales dipped 0.5% month over month but are up 7.5% year over year. Food and drink establishments posted a gain of 0.3% month over month and sales are up 2.3% year over year.