Jessica Rinaldi | Reuters
A woman pulls shopping carts through the aisle of a Target store in Torrington, Connecticut.
U.S. retail sales recorded their smallest gain in six months in August as consumers cut back on purchases of motor vehicles and clothing, but upward revisions to July data likely keep intact expectations of strong economic growth in the third quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Friday retail sales edged up 0.1 percent last month, the smallest rise since February. Data for July was revised higher to show sales rising 0.7 percent instead of the previously reported 0.5 percent gain.
The modest increase in retail sales suggests that high gasoline prices could be pulling spending away from other categories. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales increasing 0.4 percent in August.
Retail sales in August advanced 6.6 percent from a year ago.
Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales nudged up 0.1 percent last month after an upwardly revised 0.8 percent jump in July. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.
Core retail sales were previously reported to have increased 0.5 percent in July. Despite the surprise slowdown in core retail sales in August, consumer spending remains supported by a tightening labor market, which is steadily pushing up wages.
Annual wage growth increased at its fastest pace in more than nine years in August and there were a record 6.9 million job openings in July. Spending is also being underpinned by tax cuts and higher savings.