US retail sales top forecasts in sign of durable consumer demand

US retail sales top forecasts in sign of durable consumer demand



US retail


The value of retail purchases, unadjusted for inflation, increased 0.7% after an upwardly revised 0.8% gain in August, Commerce Department data showed Tuesday. Excluding gasoline, September sales advanced 0.7%.

So-called control group sales — which are used to calculate gross domestic product and exclude food services, auto dealers, building materials stores and gasoline stations — rose a better-than-expected 0.6%.

In the third quarter, control group sales rose an annualized 6.4%. Purchases rose in eight out of 13 categories last month, including stronger receipts at restaurants, motor vehicle dealers and personal care stores.

The advance showcases a consumer that’s still powering ahead despite the recent energy-driven pickup in inflation. While wage growth is starting to lose steam, the labor market remains generally strong, offering Americans the leeway to keep spending.

The data bolster expectations of stronger economic growth in the third quarter. 

Sustained strength in consumer demand, in the aftermath of September price data showing stubborn inflation, risks prompting Federal Reserve policymakers to raise interest rates again before the end of the year.

Treasury yields and the dollar rose following the report, while US stock futures remained lower, as traders boosted bets on another Fed rate hike.

Separate government data out last week showed consumer prices rose at a brisk pace for a second month in September, highlighting the sticky nature of inflation. Another report pointed to a hotter-than-expected increase in prices paid to US producers last month.

While inflation is still running well above the Fed’s 2% target, the prices of key consumer goods including apparel and furniture fell sharply last month. The price declines help explain a more restrained value of receipts at clothing retailers and appliances merchants in September. Apparel store sales fell 0.8% in September, the first decline in six months.

The retail figures largely reflect spending on merchandise, limiting the takeaways of this particular report. Real spending on both goods and services for September will be released later this month.

The retail sales report showed purchases made at restaurants and bars — the only service-sector category in the report — increased 0.9% last month. Receipts at grocery stores rose 0.4%.

Sales of motor vehicles jumped 1% in September, the largest gain in four months.

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