Journal De Bruxelles - Higher gas prices boosted US retail sales in February

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Higher gas prices boosted US retail sales in February
Higher gas prices boosted US retail sales in February

Higher gas prices boosted US retail sales in February

Rising costs for gasoline caused US retail sales to grow in February, according to government data released Wednesday, though the expansion was slightly below expectations.

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Retail sales rose 0.3 percent last month, the Commerce Department said, less than January's 4.9 percent increase, which was revised up sharply from the 3.8 percent initially reported.

Much of February's spending increase was caused by business at gas stations, where sales rose 5.3 percent, the biggest gain in any category.

Without gas stations, retail sales would have fallen 0.2 percent.

"The current surge in non-discretionary inflation -- particularly food, energy and shelter -- will pressure households' budgets and lead them to pare back their discretionary purchases, while supply-chain issues will continue to constrain sales growth," Lydia Bossour of Oxford Economics said.

However, she forecast that sales should grow in the months to come thanks to rising wages and built up savings.

Several sectors saw business slow, including non-store retailers like e-commerce outlets, where sales fell 3.7 percent, health and personal care stores, with a decline of 1.8 percent, as well as furniture stores and grocery stores.

Auto dealers, which have been vulnerable in recent months as carmakers struggle with lean inventories due to the global semiconductor shortage that has hit production and driven prices higher, saw sales increase 0.9 percent.

Other sectors that saw growth last month include sporting goods and hobby stores, where sales rose 1.7 percent, and building material and garden equipment stores, where they rose 0.9 percent.

Business at department stores grew 1.6 percent, while bars, restaurants and other food service businesses rose 2.5 percent.

G.Lenaerts --JdB