Retail sales lower than expected, but it was mainly due to autos

Consumers spent less than expected in July as a pullback in auto sales helped cool an economy struggling to shake off the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Retail sales rose 1.2% for the month, against the expected increase of 2.3% from economists surveyed by Dow Jones.

The news wasn’t all a letdown, however: Excluding autos, the gain was 1.9%, ahead of the 1.2% estimate.

Considered a bellwether for an economy that gets two-thirds of its activity from consumers, retail sales saw an 8.4% surge in June that included huge gains in furniture and appliance sales. However, those gains largely reversed themselves as a resurgence in Covid-19 cases caused reopening activities to slow.

Electronics and appliance sales saw monthly sales jump 22.9% while clothing increased 5.7% and bars and restaurants, an industry especially battered by the coronavirus, were up 5%. 

Motor vehicle parts and dealers reported a 1.2% slide, bringing down the headline number. Sporting goods and book stores saw a 5% decline while home and garden suppliers reported a 2.9% drop.

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