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US Retail Sales Unexpectedly Flat in April

Consumers are focussing spending on essentials and cutting back on luxuries amid higher prices. But sales have held up as a strong labour market helped households navigate the high inflation environment.
Shoppers in Madrid. Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images.
Consumer spending increased at a 2.5 percent annualised rate in the first quarter. (NurPhoto)

US retail sales were unexpectedly flat in April as higher gasoline prices pulled spending away from other goods, indicating that consumer spending was losing momentum.

The unchanged reading in retail sales last month followed a slightly downwardly revised 0.6 percent increase in March, the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau said on Wednesday. Retail sales were previously reported to have risen 0.7 percent in March.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales, which are mostly goods and are not adjusted for inflation, gaining 0.4 percent in April. Sales rose 3.0 percent year-on-year in April.

Consumers are focussing spending on essentials and cutting back on luxuries amid higher prices. But sales have held up as a strong labour market helped households navigate the high inflation environment.

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A report from the Bank of America Institute last week found lower-income spending growth remaining above that of higher-income households in April, but cautioned that “the apparent cooling in the labour market warrants close watching from here.” It also flagged rising property insurance costs as a “significant headwind for consumers.”

Retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services fell 0.3 percent last month after a downwardly revised 1.0 percent increase in March. These so-called retail sales were previously reported to have advanced 1.1 percent in March. Core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.

Consumer spending increased at a 2.5 percent annualised rate in the first quarter, contributing to the economy’s 1.6 percent growth pace.

By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci

Learn more:

US Retail Sales Top Forecasts as Consumers Keep Fuelling Growth

US retail sales rose by more than forecast in March and the prior month was revised higher, showcasing resilient consumer demand that keeps fuelling a surprisingly strong economy.

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