The Commerce Department reported(.pdf) that retail sales unexpectedly fell last month, down 0.3 percent in September after an increase of 0.6 percent in August. The declines were broad-based and this is a possible indication of slowing growth in the U.S. economy.
Excluding autos, September sales fell 0.2 percent after a gain of 0.3 percent and, excluding both autos and gasoline, sales fell 0.1 percent following a jump of 0.5 percent in August. The consensus estimate for the latter, so-called “core” retail sales, was for a gain of 0.5 percent, so, this report is being rightly viewed as a fairly big miss.
Flagging auto sales and lower gasoline prices (both down 0.8 percent) were key drivers in the overall decline, but a sharp slowdown in clothing store sales (down 1.2 percent), home improvement and internet sales (both down 1.1 percent), and furniture sales (down 0.8 percent) provide fresh evidence that the U.S. economy may struggle late in the year.
In other economic news, manufacturing activity in the New York has slowed sharply in recent weeks according to the New York Fed’s Empire State index that tumbled from a five-year high of 27.5 in September to just 6.2 in October. New orders plunged from +16.9 to -1.7 (indicating contraction), shipments fell from 27.1 to 1.1, and the inventories index rose from -7.6 to +2.2 (from contraction to expansion).