U.S. retail sales in July came in at a seasonally adjusted $457.73 billion, virtually unchanged from June but up 1.9 % from July 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s monthly advance retail sales report.
Sales edged down 0.3% when automotive sales are excluded and down 0.1% when auto and fuel sales are excluded. Economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal had forecast retail sales would rise 0.5% and sales excluding autos would rise 0.1% in the period.
In tandem with the July report, the government revised its June retail sales assessment up from a 0.6% increase to a 0.8% rise.
Total sales for May through July were up 2.5% from the same period a year ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There were winners and losers: Non-store retailers (e-commerce) were up 1.3% from June and 14.1% from July 2015, home furnishing stores were up 0.2% from June and 4.3% from 2015, and health and personal care stores were up 0.1% from June and 7.8% from last year, according to the report.
Electronics and appliance stores fell 0.1% from June and 3.8% from a year ago, meanwhile, and gasoline-station stores fell 2.7% from June and 11% from last year on plummeting gas prices.
The midsummer retail sales report has a couple of other key stories to tell, When Americans are buying, many are saving their dollars to buy cars, and they’re buying a lot of the other stuff online. No wonder, then, that Wal-Mart shelled out $3.3 billion for Jet in a play to boost its dismal e-commerce growth.
The dollar fell and gold rose on the news, but economists were generally more sanguine about the somewhat disappointing sales result, given that retail sales are often volatile and the flat report comes after some healthy ones. There are also other signs of a resurgent economy, including employment increases.
Still, consumption underpins the American economy, and the disappointing pause in retail sales does throw up some red flags for the remainder of the year. “It is a bit disappointing, at least to start the quarter,” Kevin Cummins, an economist at RBS Securities Inc., told Bloomberg. “Labor income is the key. Confidence seems to be moving sideways.”