US retail sales below forecasts


US RETAIL sales rose in January as post-Christmas markdowns brought people into stores, but a fall in car sales dragged the headline number below expectations.

Retail and food services sales rose 0.4 per cent to $401.4 billion (€306.7 billion) from the previous month, missing forecasts of a 0.8 per cent rise. The sales number represented a 5.8 per cent rise from January 2011, according to a US commerce department report published yesterday.

Car sales fell 1.1 per cent from December, however, with the winter months traditionally being a slower period for dealerships. With the seasonal effect stripped out, total sales excluding motor vehicles and parts rose 0.7 per cent, a little better than the 0.5 per cent forecast. “January’s US retail sales data are better than they look, but they don’t suggest that consumption growth is about to set the economic recovery alight,” said Paul Dales, senior US economist at Capital Economics.

The data also showed that sales at petrol stations rose 1.4 per cent in January – the biggest gain since March last year – partly due to higher petrol prices.

Separate figures showed small business owners were slightly more optimistic in January, although confidence remained at recessionary levels, according to the US National Federation of Independent Business. – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012)