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[WASHINGTON] US retail sales unexpectedly fell in June as households cut back on purchases of automobiles and a range of other goods, which could raise concerns the economy was slowing again.
The Commerce Department said on Tuesday retail sales slipped 0.3 per cent last month, the weakest reading since February. May's retail sales were revised down to show them rising 1.0 per cent instead of the previously reported 1.2 per cent jump.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales rising 0.2 per cent last month.
Retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services dipped 0.1 per cent after an unrevised 0.7 per cent increase in May.
These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.
Coming on the heels of June's disappointing employment report and sharp drop in small business confidence, the weak retail sales data suggests the economy might have lost some momentum at the end of the second quarter, having struggled at the start of the year.
The soft data could cast doubts on a possible September interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve.
Economists had forecast core retail sales rising 0.4 per cent.
Sales last month were broadly weak, with receipts at auto dealerships falling 1.1 per cent after rising 1.8 per cent in May. Clothing stores sales dropped 1.5 per cent, the largest decline since September 2014.
Receipts at building material and garden equipment stores fell 1.3 per cent and sales at furniture stores declined 1.6 per cent, the biggest drop since January last year.
There were also declines in sales at online stores and at restaurants and bars. Rising gasoline prices supported sales at service stations, where receipts rose 0.8 per cent.
Sales at electronics and appliance stores rose 1.0 per cent, the biggest rise since September.