U.S. retail sales stalled in April following a sharp advance in the prior month when pandemic-relief checks provided millions of Americans with increased spending power.
The value of overall retail purchases were essentially unchanged last month following an upwardly revised 10.7 percent gain in March that was the second-largest in records back to 1992, Commerce Department figures showed Friday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 1 percent April gain.
The total value of retail sales was a record $619.9 billion in April, supporting economists’ forecasts for strong household spending for the remainder of the year.
While consumers may begin shift more of their spending money to services such as entertainment and travel as pandemic fears dissipate, elevated savings supported by fiscal stimulus should underpin retail demand.
“American shoppers took a breather in April after splurging earlier this year after two rounds of big stimulus payments,” Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in a note. “But with more than half of the states now fully open for business and more quickly advancing their schedules, shoppers won’t be staying home for long.”
Eight of 13 retail categories registered declines in April sales, with the largest percentage decrease at clothing stores. Sales at apparel retailers dropped 5.1 percent after a 22.7 percent surge. General merchandise store sales fell 4.9 percent and the value of purchases at sporting goods outlets dropped 3.6 percent.
US stocks rose and Treasury yields declined in early trading Friday.
A separate report Friday showed that US manufacturing output rose in April by slightly more than expected, suggesting further improvement for factories that are otherwise buffeted by supply shortages and shipping challenges.
By Olivia Rockeman