US retail sales fall 0.3% in May

WASHINGTON • Retail sales in the United States fell last month by the most since the start of last year, reflecting broad declines in categories including motor vehicles and electronics, Commerce Department figures showed yesterday.

Retail sales dropped 0.3 per cent after a 0.4 per cent increase in the prior month, highlighting a cautious consumer.

Sales excluding vehicles and petrol were unchanged at 0.5 per cent, while retail-control group sales, which are used to calculate gross domestic product and exclude the categories of food services, auto dealers, building material stores and petrol stations, were unchanged, following a 0.6 per cent April advance. Eight of 13 major retail categories showed a decline in the value of sales.

While the value of petrol service station receipts dropped the most since February last year and weighed on overall retail sales, Americans pulled back at other merchants.

At department stores, purchases fell by the most since last July, and sales at electronic and appliance outlets posted the largest drop in over seven years.

While the details show consumer purchases had less momentum in the middle of the quarter than anticipated, a strong job market, elevated sentiment and improved finances remain sources of strength for household spending, which accounts for about 70 per cent of the economy.

The data capture just under half of all household purchases, and other reports indicate spending on services has probably been rising.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline 'US retail sales fall 0.3% in May'. Print Edition | Subscribe