February retail sales slip as auto, gas purchases fade
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WASHINGTON — U.S. consumers spent less at auto dealers, gas stations and department stores in February, causing overall retail sales to slip 0.1
It was the third consecutive month of declining retail sales, the Commerce Department said Wednesday, though they're still 4
So far, the promise of higher take-home pay from Trump's tax cuts appears to have had little influence on spending for big ticket items such as autos. But many economists expect to see gathering momentum for consumer spending given that the unemployment rate is at a low 4.1
"This lull is temporary," said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services.
Michael Dolega, a senior economist at TD Bank, said he anticipates stronger retail sales in March. He noted that much of the decline was at auto dealers, which had been booking sales growth as people replaced vehicles damaged last year by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. He also noted that federal income tax filing season for 2017 had a relatively late start, so people may be spending any refunds later in the year.
Still, there may be limits to how much retail sales can rise. Consumers have continued migrating to online outlets such as Amazon and away from traditional department stores, dampening overall sales as the competition to charge the lowest price has increased. Retail sales are increasingly influenced by the aging of the baby boomer generation, who tend to spend less after retirement.
Auto sales fell 0.9
But spending at online and
Retailers remain optimistic about a sales rebound. They added a healthy 50,300 jobs in February, according to the Labor Department's jobs report.