US retail sales ease fears over spending

US retail sales rose broadly in August, which should ease some concerns about consumer spending and support expectations for sturdy growth in the third quar-ter.

The Commerce Department said yesterday retail sales increased 0.6 per cent last month as Americans bought automobiles and a range of other goods after an upwardly revised 0.3 per cent gain in July.

“It still paints the consumers muddling along. The general message on the economy is that it’s improving but we still have a lot of slack to take up,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St Petersburg, Florida.

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The increase in retail sales, which account for a third of consumer spending, was in line with economists’ expectations. July’s retail sales were previously reported to have been flat.

So-called core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, and correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, increased 0.4 per cent in August.

August’s increase in core retail sales followed an upwardly revised 0.4 per cent gain in July, which was previously reported as a 0.1 per cent rise.

Core retail sales were up 4.1 per cent in the 12 months through August, well below their pre-recession growth pace of about 5.5 per cent.