Washington, D.C., U.S. retail sales dropped by a greater-than-expected 2.1% in August, the sharpest drop in almost four years, after car purchases collapsed from July’s near record-level, government data showed today. Sales excluding autos climbed a stronger-than-expected 1.0%. Much of the rise was a pure price effect due to high gasoline prices. Retail sales excluding motor vehicles and gasoline gained 0.5% following an unchanged reading in July.
The Commerce Department said it could not quantify the impact of Hurricane Katrina but said it would have been small because the storm-impacted region accounted for little more than 1% of total national sales.