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Hurricane, Elections Impact October Sales

WASHINGTON - For the first time in three months, retail sales ticked down as consumers cooled discretionary spending in the face of inclement weather and uncertainty here in the nation's capital.
     According to the National Retail Federation, October retail sales - excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants - decreased 0.3% seasonally adjusted from September yet increased 3.9% unadjusted year-over-year.
     By segment, furniture and home furnishing stores' sales decreased 0.6% seasonally adjusted month-to-month yet increased 7.3% unadjusted year-over-year. The data for other segments:
     • Clothing and clothing accessories stores: down 0.1% seasonally-adjusted month-to month; up 4.2% unadjusted year-over-year;
     • Electronics and appliance stores: down 1.0% seasonally- adjusted month-to month; down 4.2% unadjusted year-over-year;
     • General merchandise stores: up 0.2% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month; 1.1% unadjusted year-over-year.
     "While Hurricane Sandy certainly impacted consumer spending in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, the larger threat to the overall economy is the impending fiscal cliff, which impacts Americans across the country," said Matthew Shay, NRF president and ceo. "The automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect at the end of the year may have more of an impact on business confidence and consumer spending than any other issue."
     October retail sales, released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, showed total retail and food services sales - which include non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants - decreased 0.3% seasonally adjusted month-to-month yet increased 3.8% unadjusted year-over-year.
     "The underlying strength of the American consumer is encouraging but it's far from definitive," said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist. "Hurricane Sandy will have short-term and long-term reverberations on the economy and will continue to impact consumer spending and retail sales over the coming months in the hardest- hit areas. Even though retail sales declined in October, NRF remains confident in moderate consumer spending nationwide, and expects a solid holiday shopping season."

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