Retail sales in the US rose in April at the slowest pace of the year, showing unseasonably mild weather and pre-Easter shopping may have pulled consumers to stores the prior month.
The 0.1 per cent gain followed a 0.7 per cent increase in March, Commerce Department figures showed on Tuesday in Washington. Economists projected an advance of 0.1 per cent, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey.
Categories like building materials, clothing and department stores dropped in April as the weather-induced gains of the first three months of 2012, the warmest on record, faded. Weaker employment growth will probably also make it more difficult for households to match last quarter’s pace of spending, which was the fastest in more than a year.
“The consumer is holding up,” said Neil Dutta, an economist at Bank of America Corp. in New York who correctly forecast the sales gain. “The key thing here is to determine to what extent the weather had an effect, and it’s pretty clear if you look at the components there was some weather impact.”
The cost of living was little changed in April as fuel prices dropped, and manufacturing in the New York region expanded this month at a faster pace than projected, other reports showed.
Unchanged consumer prices matched the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News and followed three straight gains that included a 0.3 per cent rise in March, Labour data showed.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s general economic index increased to 17.1 this month from 6.6 in April. The median estimate in a survey of Bloomberg economists called for an increase to 9. Readings greater than zero signal expansion in the so-called Empire State Index, which covers New York, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut.
Retail sales were projected to rise after a 0.8 per cent advance previously reported for March, according to the Bloomberg survey. Estimates from the 80 economists surveyed ranged from a decrease of 0.3 per cent to a gain of 0.7 per cent.