U.S. Retail Sales Fall; Consumer Sentiment Rises

By Agence France-Presse Poor auto sales held U.S. retail sales down last month, marking the second straight monthly decline, the Commerce Department said Nov. 14. U.S. seasonally adjusted retail sales fell 0.3% in October, sharper than economists had expected. The fall followed a revised 0.4% decline in September. This is the first time that retail sales have declined for two months in a row since December 2001 and January 2002. Auto sales fell 1.9% in October, almost matching the 2.2% drop in the previous month. Excluding autos, retail sales rose 0.2% for the second straight month. Retail sales are up by 6.1% in the past 12 months. Sales results were mixed across sectors in October. The biggest gains came at restaurants and bars, building material and garden stores, and furniture stores. Department store sales fell 0.7% in October, the weakest reading since April. Despite falling sales, consumer sentiment strengthened in early November, according to a University of Michigan survey that showed the consumer sentiment index rose to 93.5 in November from 89.6 in late October. Economists were expecting the index to improve slightly to 91.3. Consumer sentiment is seen as a gauge of spending, which is critical because it accounts for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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