U.S. Retail Sales Unexpectedly Increase In August Amid Rebound In Auto Sales

The Commerce Department released a report on Thursday showed an unexpected increase in U.S. retail sales in the month of August, although the report also showed a notable downward revision to the July data.

The report showed retail sales rose by 0.3 percent in August following a revised 0.4 percent decrease in July. Economists had expected retail sales to come in unchanged, matching the flat reading originally reported for the previous month.

The unexpected uptick in retail sales largely reflected a rebound in sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers, which surged by 2.8 percent in August after tumbling by 2.0 percent in July.

Excluding the rebound in auto sales, retail sales fell by 0.3 percent in August following a revised unchanged reading in July.

Ex-auto sales were expected to inch up by 0.1 percent compared to the 0.4 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.

The unexpected decrease in ex-auto sales was partly due to a continued slump in sales by gas stations, which plummeted by 4.2 percent in August after plunging by 2.3 percent in July amid a decrease in gasoline prices.

Furniture and home furnishings stores and non-store retailers also saw notable decreases in sales, while sales by miscellaneous store retailers, food service and drinking places and building materials and supplies dealers saw significant growth.

Closely watched core retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, came in unchanged in August after rising by 0.4 percent in July.

“The stagnation in underlying retail sales in August suggests that plunging gasoline prices are not providing any significant boost to real consumption,” said Andrew Hunter, Senior U.S. Economist at Capital Economics.

He added, “But that could change over the coming months as consumer confidence recovers and, for now, the data are still consistent with a reasonably solid rebound in GDP in the third quarter.”

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