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Weather-Induced Slowdown Hits US Retail Sales in January

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Weather-Induced Slowdown Hits US Retail Sales in January

US retail sales declined unexpectedly in January, a sign severe weather weighed on consumer spending and economic growth after the holidays.

Retail revenues declined 0.4 percent in January, official data from the Commerce Department showed today. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg forecast no change to retail sales levels. Excluding automobiles, retail sales were unchanged last month, after surging 0.7 percent in December.

The so-called core measure, which excludes volatile elements such as automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, declined 0.3 percent in January after a downwardly revised 0.3 percent gain the previous month. Core sales are more reflective of the consumer spending component used to calculate gross domestic product.

Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers declined 2.1 percent in January. Department store sales declined 1.5 percent, while nonstore retailers and food services each declined 0.6 percent. Building supplies experienced the biggest surge in sales last month, rising 1.4 percent. Sales at gasoline stores were up 1.1 percent from the previous month, official data showed.

Compared to year-ago levels, retail revenues were up 2.6 percent, led by nonstore retailers, which rose 6.5 percent. Automobile and other motor vehicle sales were up 4.1 percent from January 2013, while food and beverage sales were up 4.3 percent.

Disappointing retail sales data may be a reflection of a broader, weather-induced slowdown in January, according to several analysts. Severe weather has been partly to blame for weak durable goods orders, new home sales and nonfarm payrolls. The weather-induced slowdown is expected to weigh on first quarter growth at a time when the US economy was beginning to hit its stride. US gross domestic product accelerated at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter.

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