U.S. retail sales unexpectedly fell in February, the latest sign economic growth has shifted into low gear as stimulus from $1.5 trillion in tax cuts and increased government spending fades.
Reuters reported that the Commerce Department said on Monday retail sales dropped 0.2% as households cut back on purchases of furniture, clothing, food and electronics and appliances, as well as building materials and gardening equipment. Data for January was revised higher to show retail sales increasing 0.7% instead of gaining 0.2% as previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales rising 0.3% in February. Retail sales in February advanced 2.2% from a year ago.
The surprise drop in sales in February could partly reflect delays in processing tax refunds in the middle of the month. Tax refunds have also been smaller on average compared to prior years following the revamping of the tax code in January 2018. Cold and wet weather could also have hurt sales.
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