Retail Sales Declined In April

Spending at U.S. retailers declined in April, signaling hesitation among consumers as the second quarter began.

Retail sales, a measure of purchases at stores, restaurants and online, declined a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in April from a month earlier, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

The drop fell short of economists’ expectations for a slight increase. It was driven by lower spending on vehicles, electronics and at home improvement stores last month.

“The retail sales number has been on a seesaw pattern, until we break that pattern it’s hard to get carried away with one number,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities. After declining in February, retail sales bounced back strongly in March, rising a revised 1.7% on the month.

Data on retail sales can be volatile from month to month. Wednesday’s report didn’t track spending on most services, such as health care and housing. The figures weren’t adjusted for inflation. From a year earlier, retail sales rose 3.1% in April.

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