WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- U.S. retail sales were unexpectedly flat in July, a sign that consumers were cautious about stepping up spending after three months of healthy increases, the Commerce Department reported Friday.
Retail sales held steady at a seasonally adjusted 457.7 billion U.S. dollars last month, the Commerce Department said. Compared with a year earlier, total retail sales rose 2.3 percent.
Purchases of motor vehicle and parts advanced 1.1 percent in July, and online retail sales climbed 1.3 percent, while department stores sales fell 0.5 percent. Excluding the volatile auto sales, total retail sales edged down 0.3 percent last month.
July's flat reading on retail sales followed a 0.8 percent increase in June, which was revised up from an earlier estimate of 0.6 percent gains. Retail sales had increased 0.2 percent in May after a 1.2 percent gain in April.
As consumer spending was a major driver of U.S. economic growth in the second quarter this year, Friday's retail sales data might suggest a potential cool down of consumer spending and economic growth in the second half of the year.
The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 1.2 percent in the second quarter, far below the market expectation of over 2 percent, according to the Commerce Department. The lackluster growth could trigger concern for Fed officials on whether the economy could absorb a further rate hike.