Retail Sales Down in January on Lower Gas Prices Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Retail Sales Down in January on Lower Gas Prices

The rapid decline in global crude oil prices since June once again was a drag on the overall U.S. retail sales data, which are not adjusted for price changes.

U.S. retail sales fell for the second straight month in January, pulled lower by falling gasoline prices, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Retail and food services declined 0.8% from December, according to the seasonally adjusted data, double the drop expected by analysts.

In December, sales had fallen 0.9%.

Retail sales excluding motor vehicles and parts fell 0.9% in January.

The rapid decline in global crude oil prices since June once again was a drag on the overall U.S. retail sales data, which are not adjusted for price changes.

Gasoline sales at the pump dropped 9.3% in January, the steepest monthly decline in six years, and were down 23.5% from a year ago.

But most other sectors also saw sales fall, including autos, down 0.5%, clothing stores (-0.8%), and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores (-2.6%).

Though consumers pulled back in other areas, they pushed up sales in restaurants and bars, by 0.8%.

Sales of building and garden supplies rose 0.6%, miscellaneous store sales surged 2.6% and online sales gained 0.5%.

Retail sales data provide a snapshot on consumer spending that accounts for about 70% of U.S. economic activity.

Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics projected a surge in sales over the next few months as the drop in gasoline prices works through the monthly data.

"In the meantime, we expect to hear these data cited as a reason for the Fed to stick to its 'patient' line, but in our view the rapid tightening of the labor market is much more powerful in driving Fed decisions than the retail sales data," Shepherdson said.

Year-over-year, January sales were up a solid 3.3%.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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