January Retail Sales Flat at $370B; Business Inventories also Unchanged

January retail sales were unchanged at $370.4 billion after a 1.2% gain in December, the Commerce Department reported. Retail sales excluding autos and gasoline rose 0.5% in January compared to 1% rise in December.

Retail sales account for almost half of all consumer spending.

Sales at department stores increased 1.4% in January, the most since October 2005. Purchases of furniture and home furnishings rose 0.8% in January.

Clothing stores reported 1% rise in sales. Auto sales fell 1.3%, the most since June, following a 1% rise in December.

Business Inventories

Separately, the Commerce Department reported no change in business inventories at $1,366.4 billion in December, the first time since July 2005 that inventories failed to rise.

The combined value of distributive trade sales and manufacturers' shipments for December was estimated at $1,066.0 billion, up 1.4% from November and up 4.4% from December 2005.

The total business inventories/sales ratio based on seasonally adjusted data at the end of December was 1.28. The December 2005 ratio was 1.26.

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