Fueled largely by strong sales at automotive retailers and gas stations, U.S. retail sales grew by slightly more than expected in the month of August, according to figures released Friday by the Commerce Department.
Commerce Department figures put the advance estimate of retail sales for August at a seasonally adjusted level of $406.7 billion, a 0.9 percent increase from revised July levels and the strongest monthly growth since February.
Although July retail sales growth was downwardly revised to 0.6 percent from the 0.8 percent growth initially reported, the August growth was nevertheless higher the 0.8 percent increase predicted by most economists.
Motor vehicle and parts dealers saw a 1.3 percent increase in sales for the month, also the strongest growth since February, while gasoline stations saw a 5.5 percent increase, the largest month-to-month percentage increase since November of 2009.
Excluding the automotive sector, retail sales for August remained up a strong 0.8 percent, matching the expectations of most economists. Excluding gasoline sales, the retail sales growth was a weaker 0.3 percent.
Excluding sales in both the automotive and gasoline sectors, August retail sales were up a mere 0.1 percent, notably below the 0.4 percent growth predicted by most economists.
Compared to August of 2011, overall retail sales were up 4.7 percent, while non-automotive retail sales were up 3.4 percent.
August retail sales figures also showed a strong 1.0 percent increase in sales by building material, garden equipment and supplies dealers, while furniture and home furnishing store sales edged up 0.3 percent.
Americans also showed more willingness to eat out in August, with sales at food services and drinking places up 0.5 percent - sales at food and beverage stores were roughly unchanged for the month.
But in what may be a worrying sign for the back-to-school shopping season, electronics and appliance store sales were down 1.4 percent, while general merchandise sales were down 0.3 percent and clothing and accessory store sales dipped 0.1 percent.
However, the Commerce Department cautioned that those figures are seasonally adjusted.
In August, this could include adjustments to account for the back-to-school shopping surge, as sales in all three of those falling categories were actually up for the month in raw dollar terms.
by RTT Staff Writer
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