September Retail Sales Highest Since 2015

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U.S. consumer spending increased by 0.7% year over year in September and rose by 1.6% year over year, the largest increase in two and a half years, 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 rise 1.9% compared with sales in September 2016.

Sales of motor vehicles rose 1.8% month over month from August and 4.2% compared with September 2016 as auto sales surged. Car sales totaled $91.19 billion last month on an unadjusted basis, down from $97.14 billion in August and up from $87.28 billion in September 2016.

Adjusted for seasonal variations and other items, total retail sales for the month came in at $483.9 billion, up 1.6% month over month and 4.4% above the September 2016 total. Total sales for the three-month period between July and September slipped 0.1% compared with last year.

Retail trade sales rose 1.7% month over month and 4.7% year over year. Nonstore retail sales rose 9.2% year over year. Month over month, nonstore retail sales rose by 0.5%.

Gasoline station sales rose 5.8% month over month and are up 11.4% year over year. The nine-month total for gas stations is up 8.5% year over year, due largely to higher pump prices.

Electronics stores posted a sales decline of 1.1% month over month and a year-over-year decline of 4.4% in sales. Department stores posted a month-over-month sales decrease of 0.4% and a year-over-year decline of 0.5%.

Sales were stronger across a broad range of products. Building materials and garden supplies sales rose 2.1% month over month and 10.7% year over year. The gains are likely due to recovery work following the hurricanes that struck the Gulf Coast. Food services and bars saw a sales increase of 0.8% month over month and 2.7% year over year.

Sales at miscellaneous store retailers fell 0.6% month over month but gained 0.1% year over year. Furniture and home furnishings stores dropped 0.4% month over month, but rose 1.7% year over year. Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores had a month-over-month sales decline of 0.2% and a year-over-year drop of 5.5%.