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U.S. Retail Sales Unexpectedly Pull Back In April

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Reflecting a sharp pullback in auto sales, the Commerce Department released a report on Wednesday showing an unexpected drop in U.S. retail sales in the month of April.

The Commerce Department said retail sales edged down by 0.2 percent in April after spiking by an upwardly revised 1.7 percent in March.

Economists had expected retail sales to rise by 0.2 percent compared to the 1.6 percent jump originally reported for the previous month.

The unexpected pullback in retail sales came as sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers slumped by 1.1 percent in April after soaring by 3.2 percent in March.

Excluding the steep drop in auto sales, retail sales inched up by 0.1 percent in April after surging up by 1.3 percent in March, although ex-auto sales had been expected to climb by 0.7 percent.

The uptick in ex-auto sales came as a jump in sales by gas stations was largely offset by significant decreases in sales by building materials and supplies dealers and electronic and appliance stores.

Closely watched core retail sales, which exclude autos, gasoline, building materials and food services, came in flat in April after surging up by 1.1 percent in March.

Andrew Hunter, Senior U.S. Economist at Capital Economics, said the unexpected dip in retail sales supports his view that GDP growth is set to slow in the second quarter.

"With net trade set to provide a much smaller boost and inventories likely to be a sizable drag, we continue to think that GDP growth will slow in the second quarter, to between 1.5% and 2.0% annualized," Hunter said.

He added, "With last year's fiscal boost fading and the drag from higher borrowing costs still feeding through, we expect growth to slow further in the second half of this year."

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