US Retail Sales Surge in May on Strong Car Buying

US Retail Sales Surge in May on Strong Car Buying

The Commerce Department revised upward the figures for the previous two months, suggesting U.S. consumers are loosening their purse strings after months of cautious spending.

WASHINGTON—U.S. retail sales rose 1.2% in May as consumer spending rebounded on strong auto sales, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

The department also revised upward the figures for the previous two months, suggesting U.S. consumers are loosening their purse strings after months of cautious spending.

Retail and food services sales totaled $444.9 billion, driven mainly by car sales (+2.0%) and a rise in spending on gasoline (+3.7%), as fuel prices rose during the month.

Other key categories, food services, building materials and online sales, grew at a slower rate. Sales growth excluding autos and gasoline was 0.7 percent in the month.

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Construction materials and gardening equipment were up 2.1%, sales of clothing rose 1.5% and sales by online retailers climbed 1.4%.

But health care spending, which has been rising steadily, slipped 0.3% in May. 

Analysts called the report strong all around. Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics noted that the annual rate of increase for the three months to May over the previous quarter was 5.1%.

IHS Global Insight economist Chris Christopher said the data "points to a consumer that is willing to buy that new automobile and do some discretionary spending as well."

"Consumers are starting to use some of their so-called gasoline price dividend at the shopping mall," he added.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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