U.S. retail sales Oct 2018

The retail sales report suggested consumer spending retained most of its strong momentum at the start of the fourth quarter, likely keeping the economy on a strong growth path, despite the trade deficit expected to deteriorate further and the housing market continuing to weaken.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, grew at its fastest pace in nearly four years in the third quarter. The economy grew at a 3.5 percent annualized rate in the July-September quarter.

October’s strength in retail sales bodes well ahead of the holiday shopping season. The Commerce Department said it could not isolate the impact of Hurricane Florence, which lashed North and South Carolina in mid-September, on retail sales.

However, auto sales jumped 1.1 percent last month likely as residents in the affected areas replaced damaged cars. Auto sales fell 0.1 percent in September. Sales at building material stores surged 1.0 percent in October, probably boosted by rebuilding efforts in areas affected by Florence.

Sales at clothing stores gained 0.5 percent after climbing 0.8 percent in September. Online and mail-order sales rose 0.4 percent in October after rising 1.3 percent in the prior month.

Receipts at furniture stores fell 0.3 percent. Receipts at service stations rose 3.5 percent, likely reflecting higher gasoline prices.

Spending at hobby, musical instrument and book stores rose 0.5 percent last month. But spending at restaurants and bars slipped 0.2 percent after dropping 1.5 percent the prior month.

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