Retail sales have unexpected decline

Retail sales declined more than expected in August, marking the first drop in five months.

Sales fell 0.3 percent from July, slightly more than the 0.1 percent expected decline, according to a Commerce Department report.

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Excluding autos, retail sales fell 0.1 percent and purchases fell 1.4 percent at building materials and home improvement stores, according to the report. Sporting goods, books and music merchants experienced the same rate of decline.

Grocery, food and beverage spending declined as well, although retailers in this sector have noted that falling food costs are contributing to slower sales.

The decline comes in spite of other indicators that the consumer is doing well, including gains in disposable income and modest inflation.