US June retail sales gain at healthy pace

Business | 17 Jul 2019 11:51 am

U.S. retail sales gained at a solid pace last month, providing crucial support to the economy at a time when other drivers of growth have faded.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that retail sales climbed by 0.4 percent in June, the fourth straight increase. Sales at online retailers, grocery stores, home and garden stores, and at restaurants and bars all increased at a healthy pace.

June’s figures underscore the importance of consumer spending to the U.S. economy.

Steady hiring and modest wage increases, along with low interest rates, have helped fuel greater spending. Sales at auto dealers were up by  0.8 percent in June, the government said.

Excluding volatile gasoline sales, retail sales were even stronger, rising by 0.7 percent. Gas station sales dropped by 2.8 percent in June, because of lower prices.

Retail sales account for about one-third of Americans’ spending, while the other two-thirds are in services.

Even with solid retail sales in June, economists forecast that growth will be weaker in the April-June quarter than in the first three months of the year. Most forecast it slowed to an annual rate of about 2 percent in the second quarter, down from 3.1 percent in the first quarter.

So far, consumer spending has remained healthy despite the hefty tariffs imposed on billions of dollars of imports as part of President Trump’s trade fights. Consumers are also defying, for now, fears that their spending would decline as the impact of Trump’s tax cuts wanes.

A category that is mostly made up of online retail sales jumped by 1.7 percent for the second month in a row, pushing the annual gain to 13.4 percent, a testament to the ongoing strength of online retailers. Spending at restaurant and bars increased by 0.9 percent, a healthy showing in an area that is a discretionary expense. Spending at grocery stores were up by  0.5 percent.

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