- Retail sales rose 0.2% in January, compared with economist expectations for a flat reading.
- But December’s decline was even sharper than originally reported.
- The report had been delayed by the partial government shutdown that ended in January.
Retail sales rebounded more than expected in January, but declines at the end of 2018 were even sharper than originally thought.
The Commerce Department said Monday that retail sales rose 0.2%. Economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal had forecast they would be flat.
Retail sales plummeted by the most in a decade in December, an unexpected pullback that had rattled markets and fanned concerns about a slowdown in the largest economy. In Monday’s report, those results were revised downward to 1.6% from 1.2% as receipts fell in nearly every major category.
“Retail sales have been on a rollercoaster,” said Mike Loewengart, vice president of investment strategy at Etrade. “And when you couple last month’s anemic retail sales read with the recent mixed jobs data, these could be signs of slowing growth at home.”
In January, consumer spending rose in many categories including restaurants and bars, hobby, musical instrument and book stores, and construction materials. Auto sales receipts, meanwhile, declined 2.4%, the most since 2014.
Excluding volatile categories like cars, gasoline and food, core retail sales rose 1.1% in January after falling a downwardly revised 2.3% a month earlier. In December’s report, core retail sales were originally thought to have fallen 1.7%.
The report had been delayed by the partial government shutdown that ended January 25, which after five weeks was the longest on record. After keeping nine of 15 federal agencies shuttered for five weeks, it was expected to have slashed billions from gross domestic product at the beginning of 2019.
“In one line: Not enough to rescue Q1 consumption,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said of January’s retail sales in an email.