Sales at U.S. retailers increased more than expected in August, notching their largest gain in five months on strong receipts at gasoline stations and clothing outlets, according to a government report that further assuaged fears of a double-dip recession.
The Commerce Department said total retail sales rose 0.4 percent following a revised 0.3 percent rise in July. It was the second straight month of gains in retail sales, which are a measure of consumer health. July sales had been previously reported to have increased 0.4 percent.
Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales rising 0.3 percent last month. Compared to August last year, sales were 3.6 percent higher.
Data so far for August, including private payrolls and manufacturing, have pointed to a tentative improvement in the economy after a recent soft patch.
The recovery from the worst recession since the 1930s has cooled off as the boost from an $814 billion government stimulus package fades and unemployment remains stubbornly high.
Last month, motor vehicle and parts purchases fell 0.7 percent after increasing 1.0 percent in July. Excluding autos, sales increased by a bigger-than-expected 0.6 percent in August, also the largest increase since March, after a 0.1 percent gain the prior month. Markets had expected sales excluding autos to increase 0.3 percent in August.
Receipts at gasoline stations increased 1.9 percent after rising 2.2 percent in July. Building materials and garden equipment sales were unchanged after falling 0.4 percent in July, suggesting some stability after sharp declines following the end in April of a popular homebuyer tax credit. Clothing and clothing accessories sales increased 1.2 percent. Core retail sales, which exclude autos, gasoline and building materials, rose 0.5 percent after dipping 0.1 percent in July. Core sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of the government's gross domestic product report.
Receipts at sporting goods, hobby and book stores rebounded 0.9 percent last month. Purchases at electronics and appliance stores fell 1.1 percent.
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