Retail Sales Tumble for Second Consecutive Month on Weak Autos

Retail sales slid in March for a second month, hurt by fewer purchases of automobiles, suggesting economic growth slowed abruptly in the first quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Friday retail sales dropped 0.2 percent last month. February’s retail sales were revised down to show a 0.3 percent decrease instead of the previously reported 0.1 percent gain.

February’s drop was the first and biggest in nearly a year.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales slipping 0.1 percent last month. Compared to March last year retail sales increased 5.2 percent.

Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales rebounded 0.5 percent after a downwardly revised 0.2 percent decline in February.

These so-called core retail sales, which correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic

product, were previously reported to have edged up 0.1 percent in February.

Despite last month’s increase in core retail sales,

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