WASHINGTON – U.S. retail sales fell in February, as consumers pulled back their spending on building materials, groceries, furniture, electronics and clothing amid signs of a slowing economy.
The Commerce Department said Monday that retail sales fell 0.2 per cent in February, after posting an upwardly revised gain 0.7 per cent in January. Over the past year, retail sales have roughly kept pace with inflation by increasing a slight 2.2 per cent.
The recent dip in consumer spending suggests that more Americans are tightening their belts with global growth declining and as the stimulus from President Donald Trump’s tax cuts at the end of 2017 wane. Roughly 70 per cent of all economic activity comes from consumers, so a slump in retail sales could cause a ripple effect.
Sales at building materials stores plunged 4.4 per cent in February. Electronics retailers and grocers posted declines of more than 1 per cent. Department stores, clothiers and furniture shops also suffered a setback in sales.
Still, auto sales rebounded slightly in February after a sharp drop in January. And non-store retailers, a category that includes online shopping, enjoyed gains of 0.9 per cent in February and 10 per cent in the past year.