WASHINGTON Feb 13 U.S. retail sales barely rose
in January as tax increases and higher gasoline prices
restrained spending, suggesting a slowdown in the pace of
consumer spending early in the first quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday retail sales edged
up 0.1 percent after an unrevised 0.5 percent rise in December.
The modest gain, which was in line with economist's
expectations, suggested that households were responding to the
expiration of a two percent payroll tax cut on Jan. 1. Taxes
also went up for wealthy Americans.
So-called core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline
and building materials and correspond most closely with the
consumer spending component of gross domestic product, ticked up
0.1 percent after gaining 0.7 percent in December.
Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the U.S.
economy and grew at a 2.2 percent annual rate in the fourth
quarter. The pace is expected to slow this quarter as households
adjust to smaller paychecks and higher gasoline prices.
Sales were mixed last month, with receipts at auto dealers
slipping 0.1 percent after rising 1.2 percent in December.
Excluding autos, retail sales increased 0.2 percent last month
after advancing 0.3 percent in December.
Sales at building materials and garden equipment suppliers
rose 0.3 percent, reflecting gains in homebuilding as the
housing market recovery shifts into higher gear. Receipts at
clothing stores fell 0.3 percent.
Sales at restaurants and bars were flat, while receipts at
sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores rose 0.6 percent.
Sales of electronics and appliances gained 0.2 percent, while
receipts at furniture stores fell 0.2 percent.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)