Retail and food sales rose in September despite historically high unemployment rates and a logjam in Congress over a new round of stimulus funding.

According to estimates released Friday by the U.S. Census Bureau, September brought in $549.3 billion in sales, a 1.9 percent increase from August and a 5.4 percent increase from a year ago. August’s numbers were revised to $539 billion — a 0.6 percent increase from July. The bureau surveys a sample of 5,500 retail trade employers to assess an early estimate of monthly sales.

U.S. stocks rebounded on the better-than-expected news, as investors reacted to the jump in consumer spending as a sign of economic recovery. By noon Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 252 points, or nearly 0.9 percent. The S&P 500 was trading up almost 20 points, or nearly 0.6 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index was up 43 points, or almost 0.4 percent.

Compared with a year ago, department store sales were down 7.3 percent and gas station sales were down 13.3 percent, even though 11.1 percent more customers bought cars — suggesting all those new wheels haven’t seen much road time during the pandemic.

Some businesses saw major gains last month compared with the year before: E-commerce retailer sales were up 23.8 percent; building material and garden supply sales were up 19.1 percent; and grocery store sales were up 9.6 percent. Dow Jones analysts expected just a 0.7 percent increase in sales during September.

“Whoever becomes president will inherit a better economy than we thought just a few weeks ago,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist for MUFG, said in a statement Friday that predicted a stronger economy in the fourth quarter. “Fears of covid-19 [are] not stopping the money flowing through the economy like crazy right now.”

The Washington Post


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.