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Retail sales down 0.2% in May in another sign of economic trouble

June 13, 2012|By Jim Puzzanghera
  • Shoppers walk through the South Shore Mall in Braintree, Mass., on May 30. U.S. retail sales declined in April and May, pulled down by a sharp drop in gas prices. But even after excluding volatile gas sales, consumers increased their spending only modestly.
Shoppers walk through the South Shore Mall in Braintree, Mass., on May 30.… (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia )

WASHINGTON -- Consumers have been almost single-handedly propping up the economic recovery, but new signs are emerging that they're no longer up to the task.

Retail sales were down 0.2% in May, the second straight monthly decline, the Census Bureau reported Wednesday. The government had originally reported that retail sales were up slightly -- 0.1% -- from March to April, but that figure was revised to a 0.2% decline as well.

The figures for retail sales, which include food services, come as consumer confidence has dropped according to some gauges amid Europe's economic problems.

There was some good news for consumers Wednesday. The Labor Department reported that producer prices fell 1% in May after a 0.2% decrease in April. The drop was driven by a 4.3% decline in energy prices, the biggest falloff since March 2009.

But falling prices for gasoline and other types of energy were a double-edged sword -- demand was down because of slowing economic growth in the U.S. and abroad.

Motor vehicle sales were among the only bright spots on the retail landscape. Sales of cars and parts were up 0.8% in May. Excluding those transactions, all other retail sales were down 0.4%, the Census Bureau said.


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