Retail sales rose strongly in September on autos
WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. consumers stepped up their spending on retail goods in September, a hopeful sign for the sluggish economy.
They spent more on autos, clothing and furniture last month to boost retail sales 1.1 percent, the Commerce Department said Friday. It was the largest gain in seven months.
Auto sales rose 3.6 percent to drive the overall increase. Still, excluding that category, sales gained a solid 0.6 percent.
The government also revised the August figures to show a 0.3 percent increase, up from its initial report of no gain.
Stocks rose after the release of the report, which is the government’s first look at consumer spending each month. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 87 points in afternoon trading. Broader indexes also rose.
A separate Commerce report showed that businesses added to their stockpiles for a 20th consecutive month in August while sales rose for a third straight month. The increase suggests businesses were confident enough in the economy to keep stocking their shelves.
Stronger consumer spending could help tamp down concerns that the economy is at risk of a recession. Consumer spending is closely watched because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.
The September gains were broad-based:
• Department stores sales increased 1.1 percent, a big turnaround from August when sales had fallen 0.5 percent. The drop was blamed in part on Hurricane Irene disrupting shopping along the East Coast.
• A larger category of general merchandise stores, which includes big-chain retailers including Wal-Mart and Target, showed a 0.7 percent rise last month after no gain in August.
• Specialty clothing stores sales rose 1.3 percent, after a 0.4 percent August drop.
• Sales were up 1.1 percent at furniture stores but edged down a slight 0.1 percent at hardware stores. That surprised economists, who expected more traffic from people seeking to repair damage from the hurricane.
• Gas station sales rose 1.2 percent.