Total U.S. sales fall 0.2% in May on plunging auto sales

Washington, D.C. -- A report released Tuesday by the Commerce Department showed that total U.S. retail sales fell 0.2% in May, a less-than-forecast dip following April’s 0.3% gain. It was the first drop in 11 months. Excluding autos, retail sales rose 0.3% last month, the smallest gain since July 2010.

“The decline in headline retail sales during May can be chalked up to slumping auto sales," said Alistair Bentley, an economist at TD Economics,” in an Associated Press report. "This was to be expected following the sharp rise in gas prices and the tsunami in Japan, and thus should not be interpreted as a dramatic swing in consumer sentiment.”

Results showed that consumers are overcoming high gas prices and spending in retail stores more than expected.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News expected a May drop of 0.5% of total sales.

The report showed sales at food and beverage stores falling 0.5%. Revenue at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores was down 0.4 %. Sales of electronics and appliances fell 1.3%.

But sales at clothing stores increased 0.2% in May, while sales at building materials and garden equipment suppliers rose 1.2%.

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