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.
HIGHLIGHTS OF RETAIL SALES (AUGUST)
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.