WASHINGTON Aug 13 U.S. retail sales were
unexpectedly flat in July, pointing to some loss of momentum in
the economy early in the third quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday retail sales,
which had increased 0.2 percent in June, were held back by a
second straight month of declines in receipts at auto dealers,
as well as weak sales of furniture and electronics and
July's reading was the weakest since January. Economists
polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales, which account for a
third of consumer spending, increasing 0.2 percent last month.
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, edged up 0.1 percent in July. That suggested a
moderation in consumer spending early in the third quarter.
Core sales rose by a revised 0.5 percent in June. They were
previously reported to have increased 0.6 percent and economists
had expected them to advance 0.4 percent in July.
The retail sales report, which was generally weak, suggested
third-quarter growth will probably pull back after the
April-June quarter's brisk 4.0 percent annualized rate.
Receipts at auto dealerships fell 0.2 percent in July after
declining 0.3 percent the prior month. Sales at non-store
retailers, which include online sales, slipped 0.1 percent.
Sales at clothing retailers rose 0.4 percent and receipts at
sporting goods shops gained 0.2 percent.
Sales at electronics and appliances stores fell 0.1 percent,
while receipts at building materials and garden equipment
suppliers rose 0.2 percent.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)