U.S. Retail Sales Unexpectedly Unchanged, Ex-Auto Sales Inch Higher

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A report released by the Commerce Department on Friday showed U.S. retail sales unexpectedly came in unchanged in the month of September.

The Commerce Department said retail sales were virtually unchanged in September after rising by an upwardly revised 0.4 percent in August.

Economists had expected retail sales to edge up by 0.2 percent compared to the 0.3 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.

"With retail sales unchanged in September there is still little evidence that the boost to purchasing power from the earlier sharp fall in gasoline prices has helped real consumption," said Andrew Hunter, Senior U.S. Economist at Capital Economics.

He added, "Energy prices are now edging higher again and employment growth is slowing, so we expect consumption growth to weaken further over the coming months."

The flat reading on retail sales came amid a modest pullback by sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers, which fell by 0.4 percent in September after surging by 2.8 percent in August.

Excluding the decrease in auto sales, retail sales inched up by 0.1 percent in September after edging down by 0.1 percent in August. Ex-auto sales were expected to dip by 0.1 percent.

The uptick in ex-auto sales partly reflected a jump in sales by department stores as well as increases in sales by clothing and accessories stores, health and personal care stores and food service and drinking places.

On the other hand, the report showed sales by gas stations slumped by 1.4 percent in September after plunging by 5.2 percent in August amid lower gasoline prices.

Sales by miscellaneous store retailers also tumbled by 2.5 percent, while sales by electronics and appliance stories, furniture and home furnishings stores and sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument and book stores also fell.

Core retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, increased by 0.4 percent in September after inching up by 0.2 percent in August.

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