Signaling positive third-quarter momentum for the economy, U.S. retail sales increased by 0.2% in August, according to data from the Commerce Department. Excluding gasoline, retail sales – which haven’t declined since early in 2015 – rose 0.4% last month and a strong 4.4% in an annualized reading. Revised government figures showed retail sales were unchanged in June and up 0.7% in July.
Overall, 10 of 13 major retail categories realized sales increases last month. Receipts at car dealerships rose 0.7% in August following a 1.3% increase in July. Sales at clothing and electronics stores were up, as were receipts at restaurants, bars and appliance outlets. Sales at building materials and garden equipment stores, though, declined 1.8%, and furniture store receipts fell 0.9%.
The rise in retail sales was in line with the forecasts of most economists, who largely predicted gains of between 0.1% and 0.3%. Analysts believe lower gas prices are spurring spending increases in more discretionary areas and are helping to offset worries about recent stock market volatility. Retail sales is one area Federal Reserve officials have considered in determining a potential hike in interest rates, which could come as early as today.