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U.S. Retail Sales Rise 0.5% In May, April Data Revised Significantly Higher

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A report released by the Commerce Department on Friday showed U.S. retail sales rose by slightly less than expected in the month of May, although the report also showed a substantial upward revision to the retail sales data for April.

The Commerce Department said retail sales climbed by 0.5 percent in May after rising by an upwardly revised 0.3 percent in April.

Economists had expected retail sales to increase by 0.6 percent compared to the 0.2 percent drop originally reported for the previous month.

The retail sales growth in May was partly due to a rebound in sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers, which jumped by 0.7 percent in April after falling by 0.5 percent in April.

Excluding the rebound in auto sales, retail sales still rose by 0.5 percent in May, matching the upwardly revised increase in April.

Ex-auto sales had been expected to rise by 0.3 percent compared to the 0.1 percent uptick originally reported for the previous month.

Sales by non-store retailers, electronics and appliance stores, and sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument and book stores all showed notable increases.

Closely watched core retail sales, which exclude autos, gasoline, building materials and food services, climbed by 0.5 percent in May. The April reading was upwardly revised from no change to a 0.4 percent gain.

FTN Financial chief economist Chris Low called the April revisions the "real story" of the report, noting the "trajectory of second quarter consumption just transformed from ho-hum to solid."

"Needless to say, this is important," Low said. "The collapse of consumption in Q1 and failure of consumption to recover in April was one of the most compelling reasons justifying an interest rate cut."

"There are still other reasons, of course. Business confidence has tumbled. Business investment has slowed. Manufacturing is in trouble," he added. "But consumers, it seems, are alright, which means the risk of recession is diminished."

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