Auto shortages weigh on U.S. retail sales

Can’t find that SUV you wanted to buy? That partly explains why U.S. retail sales fell more than expected in July, reversing a rise in June.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that retail sales declined 1.1% last month, suggesting a moderation in economic growth early in the third quarter.A major factor driving that down: receipts at auto dealerships fell nearly 4%. A global chip shortage has hammered production of vehicles.

Sales also declined at stores that sell apparel, building materials, sporting goods, and books, among others. Online sales were also weak partly because Amazon pulled forward its Prime Day shopping extravaganza to June from July. By contrast, sales rose at restaurants and bars as vaccinated Americans were out and about, shifting their spending to services from goods.

Overall retail sales will likely rebound, however, now that the school year is getting into full swing and students are heading back to classrooms.

Over on Wall Street, investors got mixed quarterly results from two major retailers. Walmart shares rose in early trading after hiking its sales forecast and reporting a stronger-than-expected increase in domestic same store sales. Home Depot shares dropped after its U.S. comparable store sales fell short of analysts’ estimates for the first time in nearly two years.

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