WASHINGTON Retail sales rose 0.9% in September after stalling the previous month, a sign that consumer spending will support sustained economic growth in the face of higher energy costs.
Retail sales had risen just 0.1% in August, the Commerce Department said. Auto sales rose at the fastest rate in seven months, and rising oil prices pushed up sales at gasoline stations. Sales of furniture, groceries, clothing, and drugs also rose.
Septembers sales gains could persuade Federal Reserve policymakers theres no threat that the record nine-year-long economic expansion is in jeopardy, analysts said. Recent company profit warnings and declines in home building in three of the last four months have suggested that the economy might be slowing more than desired. Its exactly what the doctor ordered, said David Orr, chief economist at First Union Corp. in Charlotte, N.C. It reassures us were more likely to have a soft landing than a hard landing.
Separately, the Labor Department reported that the producer price index rose 0.9% in September after falling 0.2% in August and showing no change in July. Higher prices for energy, food, and automobiles led the increase. Excluding food and energy prices, the indexs core rate rose 0.3%, after a 0.1% increase in August.
Stocks rebounded from their worst slump in six months after the reports. Analysts had expected retail sales to grow 0.6% and producer prices to rise 0.5%. The retail sales gain shows the earnings warnings are shortfalls of expectations, not lousy earnings in an absolute sense, Mr. Orr said.
The September rise in retail sales was the biggest since a gain of 1.4% in February. Compared with September of last year, retail sales were up 7.6%. This was better than the 6.9% year-over-year increase in August, the Commerce Department data showed.
The increase was led by a 1.4% rise in purchases at auto dealers, the largest gain since 1.5% in February. Gasoline station sales rose 2.1% last month, reflecting a rise in fuel prices. The gain was the largest since sales jumped 2.9% in June. The price of gasoline at the pump averaged $1.59 a gallon last month. This was up from $1.51 in August, when gasoline prices began falling from their record of $1.71 in June.