October Retail Sales Up on Strong Car Sales

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U.S. consumer spending increased by 0.2% year over year in October and by 4.6% above a revised September increase of 1.9% (up from 1.6%). The U.S. Census Bureau released its estimated retail sales data for October Wednesday morning. A poll of economists had forecast that retail sales would rise 0.2% compared with sales in October 2016.

Sales of motor vehicles rose 0.7% month over month and 6.0% compared with October 2016 as auto sales surged again. Car sales totaled $94.41 billion last month on an adjusted basis, up from $93.63 billion in September and up from $89.05 billion in October 2016.

Adjusted for seasonal variations and other items, total retail sales for the month came in at $486.6 billion, up 0.2% month over month and 4.6% above the October 2016 total. Total sales for the three-month period between August and October rose 4.3% compared with last year. For the first 10 months of the year, sales are up 4% year over year to $4.69 trillion.

Retail trade sales rose 0.2% month over month and 4.7% year over year. Nonstore retail sales rose 3.2% year over year. Month over month, nonstore retail sales slipped by 0.3%. This includes online sales and is something of a surprise.

Gasoline station sales fell 1.2% month over month and are up 7.5% year over year. The 10-month total for gas stations is 8.3% higher year over year, due largely to higher pump prices.

Electronics stores posted a sales increase of 0.7% month over month and a year-over-year increase of 2%. Department stores posted a month-over-month sales increase of 0.2% and a year-over-year gain of 0.8%.

A decline in sales of building materials and garden supplies also was a bit of a surprise. Sales fell 1.2% month over month but were 8.8% higher year over year.

Food services and bars saw a sales increase of 0.8% month over month and 3.2% year over year.

Furniture and home furnishings stores sales rose 0.7% month over month and 4.4% year over year. Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores posted a month-over-month sales increase of 1.5% but a year-over-year drop of 2.5%.