US retail sales beat expectations; manufacturing production slumps

US retail sales rebounded strongly in June as Americans spent more on gasoline and other goods amid soaring inflation, which could allay fears of an imminent recession but not change the view that economic growth in the second quarter was tepid.

The economic picture is, however, becoming increasingly muddled. Manufacturing production slumped for a second straight month in June, other data showed on Friday, implying softening demand as the Federal Reserve aggressively tightens monetary policy to bring inflation down to its 2% target, Reuters reports.

The retail sales data followed on the heels of news this week that annual consumer prices surged last month by the most since late 1981. The economy also continued to create jobs at a brisk clip in June. The reports cemented expectations that the U.S. central bank will deliver another 75-basis-point interest rate hike this month.

“Padded by high savings and rising wages, American households are spending nearly as much money as they did earlier, but largely to keep up with higher prices, not to actually buy more stuff,” said Sal Guatieri, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto. “That said, today’s report may cool talk of a near-term recession.”

Retail sales rose 1.0% last month, the Commerce Department said. Data for May was revised up to show sales falling 0.1% instead of 0.3% as previously reported. Retail sales increased 8.4% on a year-on-year basis and are 18% above their pre-pandemic trend.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales would increase 0.8%, with estimates ranging from as low as a 0.2% drop to as high as a 2.2% increase. Retail sales are mostly made up of goods, and are not adjusted for inflation. The Fed has hiked its policy rate by 150 basis points since March.

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