Washington, DC—U.S. retail sales fell last month as Americans cut back on auto purchases, a sign of consumer caution amid slow wage gains at home and troubles overseas.
Sales at retail stores and restaurants slid 0.3 percent from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted $446.89 billion in March, the Commerce Department said. Sales have fallen or been flat for each of the opening three months of the year. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected March sales would be unchanged from the prior month.
Overall, the numbers suggest the economy is still growing but consumers have, at least temporarily, lost some momentum since mid-2015.
“Consumer spending has been the main engine of growth in the U.S. for the past few years,” said Dana Saporta, director of U.S. economics research at Credit Suisse.” This was probably still the case in [the first quarter], but that engine appears to have run slower than it did” in the fourth quarter.
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