Sales at U.S. chain stores fell last week as stock market losses and concerns over a shaky economic recovery prompted consumers to stash their money away, two published reports showed.
Retail sales tend to mirror broader patterns of consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, so analysts pay close attention to the industry's performance.
Sales at the nation's chain stores fell 0.3% in the week ended Aug. 24--the third straight weekly drop--after a 0.8% decline the week before, according to a report published jointly by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and UBS Warburg.
Meanwhile, Instinet Research's gauge of sales performance, the Redbook Average, slipped a sharp 1.6% during the first three retail calendar weeks of August compared with the same period in July, the company said.
Retailers are hoping back-to-school sales, which come second only to Christmas as chain stores' most profitable season, will get cash registers ringing again.
A survey of business leaders across a wide array of U.S. industries, published separately by the International Strategy and Investment Group, found continued strong demand for homes and cars propping up the economy.
But the report also described weak retail sector activity and disappointing demand for back-to-school merchandise.