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WASHINGTON: U.S. retail sales rebounded strongly in June as Americans spent more on gasoline and other goods amid soaring inflation, which could allay fears of an imminent recession but not change the view that economic growth in the second quarter was tepid.
The economic picture is, however, becoming increasingly muddled. Manufacturing production slumped for a second straight month in June, other data showed on Friday, implying softening demand as the Federal Reserve aggressively tightens monetary policy to bring inflation down to its 2% target.
The retail sales data followed on the heels of news this week that annual consumer prices surged last month by the most since late 1981. The economy also continued to create jobs at a brisk clip in June. The reports cemented expectations that the U.S. central bank will deliver another 75-basis-point interest rate hike this month.
"Padded by high savings and rising wages, American households are spending nearly as much money as they did earlier, but largely to keep up with higher prices, not to actually buy more stuff," said Sal Guatieri, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto. "That said, today's report may cool talk of a near-term recession.",
Retail sales rose 1.0% last month, the Commerce Department said. Data for May was revised up to show sales falling 0.1% instead of 0.3% as previously reported. Retail sales increased 8.4% on a year-on-year basis and are 18% above their pre-pandemic trend.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales would increase 0.8%, with estimates ranging from as low as a 0.2% drop to as high as a 2.2% increase. Retail sales are mostly made up of goods, and are not adjusted for inflation. The Fed has hiked its policy rate by 150 basis points since March.
The nearly broad increase in retail sales last month was led by receipts at auto dealerships, which rebounded 0.8% after declining 3.0% in May amid shortages. Sales at service stations increased 3.6%. Gasoline prices surged in June, averaging above $5 per gallon, according to data from motorist advocacy group AAA. Prices at the pump have since declined from last month's record peaks and were averaging $4.577 per gallon on Friday.
Receipts at bars and restaurants, the only services category in the retail sales report, increased 1.0%. There were strong gains in sales at furniture and electronics and appliance retailers. Receipts at sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument and book stores also rose. Online store sales rebounded 2.2%.