Consumers Keep Spending Freely, Powering Resilient Economy

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Americans Increase Retail Purchases, Boosting Resilient U.S. Economy

Americans have continued to increase their purchases at retailers, indicating that solid consumer spending is still driving a resilient U.S. economy. Retail sales rose a better-than-expected 0.7% in July compared to June, according to a report from the Commerce Department. This increase follows a revised 0.3% gain the previous month.

The boost in sales can be attributed to several factors, including the success of Amazon Prime Day, the online retailer’s two-day sales event that took place earlier in July. Analysts noted that spending during this event helped to drive online sales. Excluding auto and gas sales, overall retail sales rose a solid 1%.

Department stores saw a 0.9% increase in sales, while clothing and accessories stores experienced a 1% gain. Sporting goods stores and hobby stores also saw a significant increase of 1.5% in sales. Additionally, sales at restaurants rose by 1.4%, while online sales increased by 1.9%.

However, higher interest rates are starting to impact economic activities that heavily rely on credit, such as sales of homes, vehicles, furniture, and electronics. Furniture and home furnishings stores, as well as electronics stores, experienced declines in sales. Sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers were also down compared to the previous month.

Despite these challenges, the increase in retail sales demonstrates the resilience of the U.S. economy. However, the economy still faces obstacles such as high prices and higher interest rates, which make borrowing on credit cards and obtaining mortgages more expensive. This year, consumer spending has been volatile, with a surge of nearly 3% in January, followed by a decline in February and March, and a recovery in April and May.

The report on retail sales comes at a time when inflation has cooled, but not enough to meet the Federal Reserve’s target rate. In July, inflation in the United States increased slightly after 12 consecutive months of declines. However, core inflation, which excludes food and energy costs, experienced the smallest monthly rise in nearly two years. This indicates that the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes have been successful in slowing down price increases.

Looking ahead, the upcoming earnings results from big retailers like Walmart, Target, and Macy’s will provide further insights into consumers’ mindset and how they will navigate inflation and higher interest rates in the second half of the year, including the critical holiday season. Additionally, the end of the student loan moratorium later this year may impact consumer spending, as Americans will have to redirect money that previously went towards loan payments.

Despite the positive retail sales figures, Home Depot, the largest home improvement retailer in the nation, reported a decline in sales due to inflation and soaring interest rates. However, one retailer, Lowe’s, has already started offering holiday merchandise earlier than last year in an effort to encourage spending.

In conclusion, the increase in retail sales is a positive sign for the U.S. economy, highlighting the resilience of consumer spending. While challenges such as high prices and higher interest rates remain, retailers are finding ways to adapt and attract customers. The upcoming holiday season and the end of the student loan moratorium will provide further insights into consumer behavior and the overall economic outlook.

Note: This article was written based on information from the Los Angeles Times, with contributions from Paul Wiseman and Michelle Chapman.

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