Economists encouraged by retail sales report
WASHINGTON - The retail sales numbers for June indicate that consumers are still cautious, despite steady job gains this year.
The Commerce Department says sales rose by just two-tenths of one percent last month, held back by a sharp drop at building and garden supply stores. Sales also fell at restaurants and at auto dealers.
Still, economists are encouraged by some of the details in the report. A measure of retail sales that doesn't count fluctuating categories like gasoline and autos rose by a solid 0.6 percent. Clothing stores, sporting goods stores and department stores all recorded decent sales gains. And a category that includes online and catalog retailers jumped 0.9 percent in June. It's increased 8.1 percent in the past 12 months.
Most analysts now believe the economy expanded at about a 3 percent annual pace in the April-June quarter. And that's a forecast that was little changed by the retail sales report. It's not as strong a showing as many economists had hoped following a weak first quarter, when the economy shrank by 2.9 percent.