U.S. Retail Sales Fall After Downward Revisions

An unexpected decline in August retail sales and downward revisions to the prior two months indicate Americans tempered their spending during the summer, Commerce Department figures showed Friday.


  • Overall sales fell 0.2% (est. 0.1% gain) after a 0.3% increase (prev. 0.6% gain); June sales dropped 0.1% (prev. 0.3% rise)
  • Purchases at auto dealers dropped 1.6% after no change
  • Retail-control group sales, which are used to calculate GDP and exclude the categories of food services, auto dealers, building materials stores and gasoline stations, decreased 0.2% following a 0.6% advance 5 of 13 major retail categories showed a decline in August sales
  • Key Takeaways

    The August decline in sales and downward revisions to the prior months make it more likely that consumption, the biggest part of the economy, will be hard-pressed to match the 3.3 percent growth pace of the prior quarter.

    Retail control group’s sales rose an annualized 1.1 percent in the three months ended in August, marking a slowdown from the 3.9 percent pace from May through July, the report showed. At the same time, purchases increased at furniture outlets and restaurants.

    The Commerce Department said in a special notice that it couldn’t isolate the effect of Hurricane Harvey on the data because it tracks activity on a national scale. The overall response rate was within the range of the past 12 months, though data collection lagged behind in areas affected by the Harvey and Irma.

    Vehicle demand, which was already cooling, probably took a further hit from Harvey. Industry figures showed August sales of cars and light trucks posted the weakest monthly pace since early 2014.

    A pickup in fuel prices may have also crimped consumers’ ability to purchase other goods. At the same time, higher gasoline costs boosted receipts at filling stations; the Commerce Department figures aren’t adjusted for price changes.

    Other Details

  • Automobile dealers’ sales dropped 1.6 percent, after no change the previous month
  • Retail sales excluding autos rose 0.2 percent after 0.4 percent increase
  • Sales rose 0.3 percent at restaurants and 0.4 percent at furniture stores
  • Receipts at gasoline stations increased 2.5 percent
  • Bloomberg

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    Dean Popplewell

    Dean Popplewell

    Vice-President of Market Analysis at MarketPulse
    Dean Popplewell has nearly two decades of experience trading currencies and fixed income instruments. He has a deep understanding of market fundamentals and the impact of global events on capital markets. He is respected among professional traders for his skilled analysis and career history as global head of trading for firms such as Scotia Capital and BMO Nesbitt Burns. Since joining OANDA in 2006, Dean has played an instrumental role in driving awareness of the forex market as an emerging asset class for retail investors, as well as providing expert counsel to a number of internal teams on how to best serve clients and industry stakeholders.
    Dean Popplewell