By Jeffry Bartash
Amazon Prime Day hangover curbs Internet sales
The numbers: Sales at U.S. retailers rose 0.6% in August despite a hangover for internet stores after the Amazon Prime Day event, but most of the increase was tied to higher gasoline prices.
Sales had been forecast to rise just 0.1% last month after solid gain in July, when Amazon (AMZN) recorded its biggest day of sales ever. Other retailers also held sales and saw strong activity that month.
Retail sales represent about one-third of all consumer spending and usually offer clues on the strength of the economy.
While consumer spending has been surprisingly strong this year, higher interest rates and a slowdown in hiring are expected to restrain purchases in the months ahead. Millions of Americans also have to start paying back their student loans.
Forecasters predict the holiday shopping season could be the weakest in five years.
Key details: Sales at internet retailers were flat last month after a 1.5% gain in July. Shoppers scaled back after buying lots of stuff around Amazon Prime Day.
What kept overall retail sales from falling was a sharp 5.2% increase in receipts at gas stations, but that's not a good thing for households. The more they have to spend on fuel, the less money they have to pay for discretionary goods.
Auto sales also rose 0.3% to help pad the headline retail number. Auto sales account for about 20% of all retail sales.
Retail sales increased a mild 0.2% when car dealers and gas stations are set aside, which gives a better idea of consumer demand.
Most other retailers also saw an increase in sales, with the notable exception of stores that sell home furnishings. But the gains were generally small.
Sales edged up 0.3% at bars and restaurants, for instance. Restaurant sales tend to rise when the economy is healthy and Americans feel secure in their jobs. Sales decline during times of economic stress.
Big picture: A burst of momentum in the economy over the summer is likely to fade due to higher interest rates, but there's little evidence to suggest a recession is on the way. Americans are still spending plenty of money.
Unemployment is low and wages are finally rising faster than inflation, giving households enough buying power to keep the economy forging ahead.
Looking ahead: "We expect to see consumer spending softening in the months ahead on the combination of pandemic era savings being exhausted, credit cards borrowing slowing as credit availability dries up and the restart of student loan repayments erodes household spending power," said James Knightley, chief international economist at ING.
Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA and S&P 500 SPX were set to open higher in Thursday trades.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
September 14, 2023 09:18 ET (13:18 GMT)
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