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By
AFP
Published
Jun 11, 2009
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US retail sales up for first time in 3 months

By
AFP
Published
Jun 11, 2009

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US retail sales rose in May, for the first time in three months, fueled mostly by higher gasoline prices, the government said Thursday 11 June amid signs a prolonged recession is easing.


Photo: AFP

The Commerce Department said sales edged up 0.5 percent in line with expectations, from a revised declines of 0.2 percent in April and 1.2 percent the previous month.

The monthly retail sales data highlight the direction of a key motor of the world's largest economy, consumer spending, which normally drives two-thirds of output.

Gasoline sales, which rose 3.6 percent, helped boost the April retail numbers. Excluding this component, retail sales were up 0.2 percent.

While the 0.5 percent May gain following two monthly drops reflects a stabilization in the trend in consumer spending, analysts say it may be too early to project growth in the months ahead amid rising unemployment.

"It would be very premature, however, to expect an uptrend in retail sales over the months ahead given declining payrolls and weakening wage gains," said Patrick O'Hare of Briefing.com.

He said that retail data overall presented few major surprises relative to what was built into market expectations for the economy.

One key factor was that auto sales did not add more to the May increase, analysts said.

"Auto sales rose only 0.5 percent, much less than implied by the unit sales data from the automakers and not enough to drive a wedge between the headline and ex-autos numbers," said Ian Shepherdson, chief US economist for High Frequency Economics.

The economic analysis firm's measure of core sales, which excludes autos, gas and food, rose only 0.1 percent, after a 0.1 percent dip in April.

"The trend seems to be more or less flat, which is better than a decline but is hardly a green shoot," Shepherdson said.

"Consumers are now under pressure from rising gas prices; expect no near-term improvement in core sales," he warned.

Oil prices struck eight-month highs Thursday 11 June, breaching 72 dollars in New York, after a big drop in US crude reserves and as the International Energy Agency hiked its global demand estimate for the first time in months.

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