Economy Watch: Retail Sales Enjoys Strong September

For the retail numbers, the precise effects of the three hurricanes, Harvey, Irma and Maria, which slammed into USA territory between August and September, could not be determined, according to the Commerce Department's Census Bureau.

"The size of the gain in headline retail sales was driven by hurricane effects from replacing destroyed vehicles, purchase of building materials to fix storm damage, and a surge in fuel prices", the analyst firm RDQ Economics said Friday. Sales were also 4.4 percent above September 2016, and the monthly change from July 2017 to August 2017 was revised from down 0.2 percent to down 0.1 percent.

Retail trade sales increased 1.6% from August and 4.7% from a year ago.

Closely watched core retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, rose by 0.4 percent. "We're expecting total consumption to rise at a 2.0% rate in Q3 and 1.5% in Q4, with a rebound to 3% or so in Q1 next year", Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a note sent to clients. The year-over-year overall increase was even stronger, however, at 4.6 percent without auto sales.

Higher gas prices contributed to the jump in retail sales, as sales by gasoline stations soared by 5.8 percent during the month.

Bars and restaurants had a good month, adding 0.8 percent. Non-store (internet) continued to eat the lunch of certain of those losing categories (especially electronics), with sales up 0.5 percent for the month and 9.2 percent for the year.