U.S. retail sales unexpectedly fell for a third straight month in February as harsh weather kept consumers from automobile showrooms and shopping malls, which could hurt growth prospects for the first quarter.
Reuters reported that snowy and cold weather and the now-settled labor dispute at the country’s West Coast ports, which disrupted the supply chain, hurt economic activity early in the year. The persistent weakness in retail sales could temper expectations for a June interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve.
“The broad-based weak tone of this report suggests that the bad winter weather may have been a key factor in tempering economic activity this quarter,” said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in the New York.
The Commerce Department said on Thursday retail sales dropped 0.6 percent as receipts fell in almost all categories. Sales had declined 0.8 percent in January.
It was the first time since 2012 that sales had dropped for three consecutive months. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales increasing 0.3 percent last month. Bad weather blanketed the country in the second half of February.
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