US retail sales declined 0.2 per cent in February - InfoNews

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US retail sales declined 0.2 per cent in February

FILE- In this March 14, 2019, file photo women shop at Neiman Marcus during the opening night of The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards in New York. On Monday, April 1, the Commerce Department releases U.S. retail sales data for February. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
April 01, 2019 - 6:51 AM

WASHINGTON - U.S. retail sales fell in February, as consumers pulled back their spending on building materials, groceries, furniture, electronics and clothing amid signs of a slowing economy.

The Commerce Department said Monday that retail sales fell 0.2 per cent in February, after posting an upwardly revised gain 0.7 per cent in January. Still, sales are running below their seasonally adjusted levels from November after a sharp 1.6 per cent decline in December.

Over the past year, retail sales have roughly kept pace with inflation by increasing a slight 2.2 per cent.

The recent dip in consumer spending suggests that more Americans are tightening their belts amid slowing global growth and waning effects of President Donald Trump's tax cuts at the end of 2017. Roughly 70 per cent of all economic activity comes from consumers, so a slump in retail sales could have a ripple effect. The end of the government shutdown on January 25 failed to boost spending much, and the initial round of tax data for February showed taxpayers were receiving lower average refunds than in 2018.

"A couple of special factors — snowstorms and less income tax refunds — may have weighed on spending, though it's disappointing that consumers did not extend January's rebound despite the end of the government shutdown," said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

Sales at building materials stores plunged 4.4 per cent in February. Electronics retailers and grocers posted declines of more than 1 per cent. Department stores, clothiers and furniture shops also suffered a setback in sales.

Still, auto sales rebounded slightly in February after a sharp drop in January. And non-store retailers, a category that includes online shopping, enjoyed gains of 0.9 per cent in February and 10 per cent in the past year.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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