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May retail sales jump

Consumers were in a spending mood in May as sales rose more than expected amid a robust labor market.

Retail sales increased 0.7% seasonally adjusted over April and 5.6% unadjusted year-over-year, according to the National Retail Federation. The NRF numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

Overall May sales – including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants – were up 0.8% over April. It was the biggest jump since November 2017 and double what economists had expected. Sales rose 5.9% year-over-year.

“We have seen ongoing momentum over the last several months and believe sales growth should remain healthy and consistent with our 2018 outlook,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz.

On a less positive note, Kleinhenz said that inflation and rising oil prices are complicating the picture.

“And new tariffs or a trade war would certainly be negatives that would increase prices and reduce both consumer purchasing power and consumer confidence,” he stated.

The May results build on improvement seen in April, which was up 0.5% monthly and 2.8% year over year.

Specifics from key retail sectors during May include:

• Online and other non-store sales were up 9.1% year-over-year and up 0.1% over April seasonally adjusted.

• Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 8.2% year-over-year and up 1.3% from April seasonally adjusted.

• General merchandise stores were up 5.6% year-over-year and up 1.2% from April seasonally adjusted.

• Building materials and garden supply stores were up 5.3% year-over-year and up 2.4% from April seasonally adjusted.

• Grocery and beverage stores were up 4.4% year-over-year and unchanged from April.

• Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 4.2% year-over-year but down 2.4% from April seasonally adjusted.

• Electronics and appliance stores were up 2.8% year-over-year and up 0.2% from April seasonally adjusted.

• Health and personal care stores were up 2.6% year-over-year and up 0.5% from April seasonally adjusted.

• Sporting goods stores were down 0.5% year-over-year and down 1.1% from April seasonally adjusted.
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