Americans spent more on shopping in October, according to figures released by the Commerce Department on Friday, in a sign that consumers are still spending at a robust clip, even as the economy continues to show signs of slowing.
Retail sales - a measure of purchases at stores, restaurants and online - rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3% in October from a month earlier, the Commerce Department said, slightly above FactSet consensus estimates of 0.2%. The gain followed September's sales decline of 0.3%.
Fueling the monthly gain was an uptick in spending at gas stations, which rose 1.1% during the month. Spending on bigger-ticket items like cars and furniture was mixed, however, with vehicle sales rising 0.5% and furniture and home furnishing sales dropping 0.9%, the biggest monthly decline in almost a year, according to the Commerce Department.
Excluding vehicles and gasoline, October sales were up 0.1%. Sales at U.S. nonstore retailers - a proxy for purchases made online - rose 0.9% from the previous month and 14.3% from a year ago.
The monthly increase suggests U.S. consumers continue to pull out their wallets despite ongoing uncertainty about the direction of the global economy, specifically a broader slowdown in the manufacturing sector across the U.S. and Europe. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic output.
The numbers also reinforce more recent remarks from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who told Congress Wednesday that he sees the current expansion continuing and that additional rate cuts will be necessary only if the economy significantly disappoints.
Retailers have generally posted positive third-quarter results, though all eyes will be on the sector's critical fourth quarter, which not only includes the upcoming holiday shopping season but is condensed into a shorter time frame, with Black Friday falling a week closer to Christmas than in 2018.