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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

U.S. retail sales rose 0.6% in June from May, the Commerce Department reported Friday morning, beating expectations of a 0.4% decline.

Why it matters: Retail’s overall recovery has been uneven, driven in part by stimulus checks, reopening patterns and seasonal demand changes.

  • The same can be said for the underlying sales categories, where clothing and personal care products continued to experience sales growth, while furnishings and building materials continued to trend down.

By the numbers: The pace of retail sales excluding autos last month rose 1.3%, also faster than expectations of a 0.4% improvement, and it marks a notable pickup from May, which showed sales declining 0.9%. 

  • The latest metrics come on the heels of new inflation figures released earlier this week that showed consumer prices rising faster than expected last month, due mostly to car prices.

Categories with some of the fastest growth last month include clothing store sales (up 2.6%) and restaurants and bars (up 2.3%).

  • Home furnishing store sales continued to decline (down 3.6%), while cars and car parts dropped (down 2%), as supply chain issues continue to plague the sectors.

What they're saying: The gains in clothing and electronics sales may reflect that stimulus checks and the recent pace of inflation are pushing up sales, Capital Economics’ Paul Ashworth notes.

  • And with "food services sales values now back above the pre-pandemic level, we shouldn’t expect any dramatic gains from here,” Ashworth adds.

What to watch: For many retailers, the second quarter might be the end of a one-year period of above-average consumer spending, a recent study from FTI Consulting found.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

Go deeper

Hope King, author of Closer
Oct 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Rising car prices fuel AutoNation's great year

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Chip shortages could be viewed as a blessing for AutoNation at this point.

Driving the news: The car chain reported its sixth-consecutive quarterly earnings record on Thursday. That's thanks to higher consumer prices driven by production constraints.

Kate Marino, author of Markets
Oct 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Changing the inflation conversation

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Inflation looks like it’ll run hot for longer than plenty of smart people thought it would. The conversation over just how much more Americans will have to pay for their stuff has taken on a new intensity, as supply problems show few signs of fading.

Why it matters: The rate of price growth has remained consistently strong in recent months — a time that some thought would bring cooling prices after an initial reopening spike. What goes on with prices will influence the decisions made by Congress, the Biden Administration, and the Federal Reserve.

Fed revamps rules for officials, restricts trades after controversies

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve on Thursday announced significant changes to its rules regulating officials' financial activities following controversy last month over some officials' past trading practices.

Why it matters: The rule revamp is a coda to the biggest scandal to hit the Fed in recent memory.