Retail Sales, Consumer Prices Fell in March

(CN) – Americans spent less for consumer goods in March, even as prices fell by the largest in amount in more than two years.

The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales fell by a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent, after a revised 0.3 percent drop in February.

But government economists were quick to note in their report that over the past 12 months retail sales have risen 5.2 percent — a sure sign of a stable economy, particularly coupled with continued strong employment numbers.

The unemployment rate declined in March to a low 4.5 percent, but that apparently hasn’t translated in the sales of new cars or nights out at bars or restaurants.

Last month, sales of new cars dropped 1.5 percent, while sales wrung up at restaurants declined 0.6 percent — the second straight monthly tumble in sales in both categories.

Online retailers fared much better, with sales actually rising 0.6 percent in March, a sing consumers are continuing to move to the Internet and away from patronizing brick-and-mortar stores.

In a separate government report, the Labor Department said Friday that consumer prices fell in March by the largest amount in more than two years.

This was attributed mostly to a sharp decline in the price of gasoline.

Consumer prices dropped 0.3 percent in March following a slight 0.1 percent rise in February.

It was the first monthly decline in 13 months and the biggest drop since prices fell 0.6 percent in January 2015.

The biggest single decrease was a 6.2 percent drop in gasoline prices. Energy prices overall also dropped, by 3.2 percent.

Core inflation, meanwhile, dropped 0.1 percent last month.

Core inflation is a statistic that does not incorporate energy or food costs, which have considerable volatility.

Over the past 12 months, inflation is up a moderate 2.4 percent while core prices have risen 2 percent.

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