Weak US retail sales highlight risks to economic outlook
U.S. retail sales fell less than expected in February, but a sharp downward revision to January’s sales could reignite concerns about the economy’s growth prospects.
Tuesday’s weak report from the Commerce Department bucked the trend of recent labor market data that had suggested the economy remained on solid ground despite some concerns that a recession was looming.
“The economy’s engines are not going into reverse … but at the moment, it is hard to see GDP with a 2 percent handle,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York.
Retail sales dipped 0.1 percent last month as automobile purchases fell and cheaper gasoline undercut receipts at service stations. January’s retail sales were revised down to show a 0.4 percent decline instead of the previously reported 0.2 percent increase.
Retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services were unchanged after a downwardly revised 0.2 percent increase in January. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product and were previously reported to have risen 0.6 percent in January.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales slipping 0.2 percent and core retail sales rising 0.2 percent in February. Read more