Will the economy rebound in the third quarter? Retail sales figures released yesterday show that we haven't gotten out of gear yet. U.S. retail sales fell more than expected in August amid weak purchases of automobiles and a range of other goods, pointing to cooling domestic demand.
The Commerce Department said retail sales declined 0.3 percent after edging up 0.1 percent in July. Sales were up 1.9 percent from a year ago. So-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, and there the numbers were a little better: Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales slipped 0.1 percent last month after a similar drop in July.
The trend was widespread, with sales, rising in only four categories, including clothing stores and restaurants and bars. Receipts at auto dealerships fell 0.9 percent, while online sales, whose share has grown in recent years, dropped 0.3 percent.