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U.S. Retail Sales, Business Inventories and Sales, Import-Export Prices Signal Slower Recovery

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In a day rife with disparate economic data, U.S. business inventories were up but trade and manufacturers’ sales fell along with retail and food services sales, and import and export prices both declined.

All three data points painted a less than rosy picture of the U.S. economy.

The Commerce Department reported that U.S. retail and food services sales for June were down 0.5% versus May, at $360 billion, but 4.8% above June 2009 sales. However, June was the second month in a row that retail sales tumbled.

Meanwhile, business inventories rose for the fifth month in May, edging up 0.1% compared to April, at an end-of-month level of $1.36 trillion, but down 1.5% from May 2009, the Commerce Department reported. Sales from U.S. trade and manufacturers’ shipments were down for the first time in more than a year at 0.9%, to $1.09 trillion, but up 11.8% from May 2009.

In addition, U.S. import prices declined for the second consecutive month in June, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, decreasing 1.3%. Export prices also fell in June, edging down 0.2% following three consecutive monthly increases.

“The drop [in import prices] was driven by declining fuel prices, although a downturn in nonfuel prices also contributed to the overall decrease,” the bureau said in its release.

The drop in business sales is yet another sign that the economic recovery seen earlier in 2010 is slowing, and the slight rise in stocks shows that manufacturers have a backlog of unsold inventory piling up. Further, the drop-off in U.S. retail sales for a second straight time in June signals that consumers–a key driver of the economy–will spend more conservatively as the recovery slows.

Indeed, the June import and export prices looked deflationary as the price of goods both coming in and going out of the country fell off.

Read a story about retail sales in May from the archives of


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