(Bloomberg News) Retail sales in the U.S. unexpectedly stagnated in August as a lack of jobs restrained shoppers, highlighting the risk the economy will stall.
The unchanged reading followed a 0.3 percent gain for July that was smaller than previously estimated, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 83 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was a 0.2 percent rise.
Chains like Best Buy Co., J.C. Penney Co. and Target Corp. are saying a struggling labor market that's battered confidence is hurting sales. The dim outlook for household spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, means it will be harder for the two-year old recovery to gain speed.
"Consumers face considerable headwinds," Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, said before the report. "The back-to-school shopping season is not looking very robust."
Wholesale prices were also little changed in August as costs decreased for energy and automobiles, according to a Labor Department report today. The producer price index was unchanged after a 0.2 percent increase in July. The so-called core measure, which excludes volatile food and energy, rose 0.1 percent, less than forecast.
Stock-index futures trimmed earlier gains after the reports. The contract on the Standard & Poor's 500 index maturing in December rose 0.5 percent to 1,171.5 at 8:36 a.m. in New York after being up as much as 1.2 percent.
Economists' estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from a gain of 0.7 percent to a decline of 0.5 percent. The Commerce Department revised the July increase down from a previously reported 0.5 percent advance.
Eight of 13 major categories showed increases last month, led by grocery and sporting goods stores. Demand declined for big-ticket items like automobiles and furniture. Sales at clothing stores dropped 0.7 percent, the biggest decrease since December.
Retail sales aren't adjusted for inflation, indicating demand may have dropped after taking prices into account.