Ford Motor Co.
Strong Auto Sales Results in US Retail Surge

Strong Auto Sales Results in US Retail Surge

Aug. 15, 2017
Robust auto sales came despite industry reports which showed car and truck sales fell 6% from July 2016.

American consumers spent at a brisk pace in July, pushing U.S .retail sales to their biggest increase in seven months, according to preliminary figures released on August 15.

 Auto sales helped drive the mid-summer upswing after sagging for much of the year, posting the biggest gain since December.

Long-suffering department stores likewise showed signs of life, but cheap gasoline and falling sales of electronics and clothing still weighed on sales last month.

Total retail sales rose 0.6% compared to June, with Americans plunking down $478.9 billion in July, the Commerce Department reported. That was 4.2% above the same month last year.

And sales in June were revised up to show a 0.3% increase, after the initially-reported 0.2% decline.

Analysts, who had been expecting an increase of only 0.3% in July, said the result was a strong start to growth in the third quarter.

The strong showing of the latest two months also might help the case in favor of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates a third time in December -- something that had fallen into doubt amid other weak economic data and low inflation.

Strong points in the advance retail sales report for July included the 1.2% jump in sales of autos and building materials.

But gasoline station sales fell gain, dipping 0.4%, although the decline slowed sharply from the 1.5% drop in June.

Excluding cars, retail sales still rose 0.5%, while leaving out the volatile gasoline segment, sales were up 0.7%.

"Stronger retail sales puts the Fed back on track to hike in December," Chris Low of FTN Financial said in a research note.

The strong auto sales came despite industry reports which showed car and truck sales fell 6% from July 2016.

Meanwhile, department stores had their best month since January, rising a full percentage point over June, perhaps easing some fears that brick-and-mortar outlets are facing collapse as consumers switch to internet shopping.

Still, July was even better for the non-store retailers like Amazon and Jet that have soared in recent years, and increased 1.3% compared to June, also their strongest gain since December.

The improved sales are "providing further evidence of consumers' willingness to open their purses for non-essentials due to better confidence in personal finances and the economy," said Mickey Levy of Berenberg Capital Markets.

 Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2017

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