U.S. retail sales fell in May for the first time in five months, restrained by a plunge in vehicle purchases and other big-ticket items, suggesting moderating demand for goods amid decades-high inflation.
The value of overall retail purchases decreased 0.3%, after a downwardly revised 0.7% gain in April, Commerce Department figures showed Wednesday.
Excluding vehicles, sales rose 0.5% last month. The figures aren’t adjusted for inflation.
The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 0.1% advance in overall retail sales from a month earlier and a 0.7% increase in the figure excluding autos.
Auto sales dropped 3.5% in May, reinforcing data from Wards Automotive Group that showed sales dropped the most since August in the month.
Meantime, spending at gas stations rose 4%, likely reflecting higher fuel prices in the month.
Excluding those categories, retail sales rose 0.1%, the smallest gain in five months.
The figures suggest that Americans’ demand for merchandise is softening, which could reflect the impact of the fastest inflation in 40 years or greater preference to spend to on services like travel and entertainment.
Spending in recent months has been supported by consumers dipping into savings and increasingly using credit cards.
That dynamic could put overall retail sales growth at risk as Americans’ financial foundations weaken.
Six of the 13 retail categories showed declines last month, according to the report, including electronics, furniture and e-commerce.
Grocery store sales advanced 1.2%, which could reflect higher prices rather than increased buying activity since the figures aren’t adjusted for inflation.
Fisher-Price, feds issue warning
Fisher-Price and federal product safety regulators are warning parents not to let babies fall asleep in certain rockers after at least 13 reported deaths over a 12-year span.
Parents should not leave infants unsupervised, unrestrained or asleep in the Infant-to-Toddler Rocker or Newborn-to-Toddler Rocker, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Tuesday, citing new regulations that require infant sleep products to have a sleep surface angle of 10 degrees or less.
The rockers in question come with reclining seats, which are designed to swing back and forth to relax the child.
However, the reclining position can put a baby at suffocation risk and goes against guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which specifies that infants should sleep on their backs in an empty crib or bassinet.
Extra materials, such as pillows or toys, also increase the risk of suffocation.
“No inclined product, made by Fisher-Price or any other company, is safe for infant sleep. Only a firm, flat surface is safe,” CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. said in a statement.
From wire reports