Total retail sales gained for the seventh straight month, but the increase was a tepid 0.1 percent, the Commerce Department said in a monthly report, which was well below the consensus estimate among economists

Washington (AFP) - Falling auto sales in August slowed US retail spending, but spending in July was higher than originally reported which kept the overall pace was well above 2017, the government reported Friday.

Sales of clothing and furniture also fell last month, while department stores continued their downward trend, but spending on electronics and appliances as well as health care were solid.

The biggest increase was the 1.7 percent jump in gasoline station sales, which are now up more than 20 percent over August of last year.

Total retail sales gained for the seventh straight month but the increase was a tepid 0.1 percent, the Commerce Department said in a monthly report, which was well below the consensus estimate among economists.

That rise put spending 6.6 percent higher than the same month of 2017. Meanwhile, sales in July were revised up to show a 0.7 percent gain, better than originally reported.

Excluding autos, which declined 0.8 percent in August, total retail sales showed a more healthy increase of 0.3 percent, which make it 7.3 percent higher than a year earlier.

The disappointing auto sales were in contrast to the surge in production in the month. The Federal Reserve reported Friday that vehicle output jumped four percent, the strongest since April, which helped boost overall industrial production last month.

Chris Low of FTN Financial said the data are not a cause for concern for third quarter growth.

“One might argue the report reveals momentum fading in the third quarter but it’s hard to make that case looking at the data” which have improved steadily this year, he said in a research note. “In other words, despite typical volatility in sales all year, the lows are successively higher.”

While brick-and-mortar stores continued to decline, online retailers like Amazon saw more gains, with a 0.7 percent increase putting sales more than 10 percent higher than last year.

Jim O’Sullivan, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics, said the impact of Amazon’s sizzling “Prime Day” sales event in July could account for the slightly disappointing result as “the already-strong July data were revised up.”