NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Retail sales were virtually flat in September as car sales dropped off after strong summer gains, the government said Thursday.
Overall retail sales rose 0.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted $253.43 billion, the Commerce Department said. That's much slower than the upwardly revised 1.5 percent pace of growth recorded in August. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected the September rate to remain unchanged.
However, sales excluding autos rose 0.6 percent, faster than the 0.3 percent growth anticipated by forecasters, but down from the revised 0.9 percent in the prior period.
"This is certainly weaker than expected," economist Phil Hill of financial analysis firm Briefing.com told Reuters about the overall numbers. But he said the figures aren't likely to change expectations that the Federal Reserve will tighten interest rates.
The Fed's policy-making body meets next month to consider rates. Earlier this month, it announced that it was leaning toward rate increases to stem inflation.
Sales of long-lasting durable goods, including cars and big-ticket appliances, dropped 0.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted $106.29 billion after a 2.1 percent jump in August. However, sales of furniture and home furnishings posted a 1.2 percent gain.
Sales at car dealers dropped 1.3 percent in September after a 3.1 percent increase a month earlier.
September marked the twelfth increase in retail sales in the past 14 months. Despite the softer numbers last month, the figures show that the consumer still is in a buying mood, Gary Thayer, chief economist at A.G. Edwards & Sons, told Reuters.
"We're seeing some signs of a slowdown, but not enough to reduce people's inflation concerns," he said.
After the data were released at 8:30 a.m. ET, the benchmark 30-year Treasury dropped 13/32 of a point in price, bringing the yield up to 6.30 percent. Bond yields are now near their two-year highs.
-- staff and wire reports