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US retail sales edge higher in June

US retail sales rose only slightly in June on weaker sales in automobiles and building materials, the government said Tuesday, in a report that still showed momentum in consumer spending.

WASHINGTON: US retail sales rose only slightly in June on weaker sales in automobiles and building materials, the government said Tuesday, in a report that still showed momentum in consumer spending.

Retail and food services sales rose 0.2 per cent in June, and sales excluding autos were up 0.4 per cent, the Commerce Department said.

The department upwardly revised its May numbers, to a 0.5 per cent increase from the prior estimate of 0.3 per cent. Ex-auto sales were revised up to 0.4 per cent from 0.1 per cent.

Retail sales are a key element of consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of US economic activity. The report came in below analysts' expectations of a 0.7 per cent gain in retail sales and a 0.6 per cent rise in ex-auto retail sales.

Auto sales fell 0.3 per cent in June. Building material and garden supply retailers saw sales drop 1.0 per cent. Retail trade sales rose 0.3 per cent and sales at non-store retailers, generally online retailers, were up 8.1 per cent.

Year-over-year, total retail sales in June were up 4.3 per cent, a slightly slower pace than May's 4.6 per cent increase.

Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, pointed to higher revisions for April and May retail sales that had brought the second quarter to an annualized gain of more than 6.5 per cent, the biggest quarterly increase since 2011.

"That 'strong handoff to Q3' comment still flies," she said. "This suggests some upside risk to Q2 consumer spending."

Although the retail sales data do not capture the entire picture of consumer spending, she added, "from what we're seeing, it's better than what was anticipated."

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