US retail sales post surprise 0.7% gain in Sept

Washington (AFP) –


US consumers stepped up spending in September and retail sales posted a surprise 0.7 percent increase, pushed by broad gains that extended beyond gasoline and autos, the government reported Friday.

The increase, which sent the monthly sales total to $625.4 billion, defied economists' expectation for a slight decline -- for the second month in a row. And the Commerce Department revised the August gain higher than initially reported, to 0.9 percent.

Demand for goods has surged as widespread vaccinations have allowed businesses to reopen from the Covid-19 shutdowns, and total sales jumped 13.9 percent compared to September 2020, according to the report.

But supply bottlenecks have caused price increases and shortages -- notably for semiconductors, curtailing auto production.

Oil prices have soared above $80 a barrel in recent weeks, and sales at gasoline stations jumped 1.8 percent compared to August and are 38.2 percent higher than a year ago, the report said.

And auto sales rose 0.6 percent in the month, rebounding from the surprise decline in August, and are up 7.5 percent over the same month of 2020.

However, even excluding autos and gas, retail sales were still up 0.7 percent in the month, amid solid gains for clothing, food and beverages, and sporting goods, as well online retailers, the report said.

"US household remains rock solid and is the foundation of American economic expansion," economist Joseph Brusuelas of RSM said on Twitter.

However, the supply chain issues continue to be felt in the data, and the New York Federal Reserve's Empire manufacturing index plunged 14.5 points to 19.8 in October, with record high in delivery times, and prices near record highs.

However, the future outlook index improved four points to 52.0, the report said.

"Supply, not demand, is manufacturing's major current problem," said Oren Klachkin of Oxford Economics.

And he cautioned: "There's no quick fix to the multiple, simultaneous issues that are presently restraining growth."