US July retail sales volumes jump past forecasts

"This means that not only is the second quarter personal consumption expenditures probably going to be revised higher from an already strong 2.8%, but that the expectations for PCE during the third quarter are also going to be marked up going forward", he said.

"With consumer confidence at firm levels, employment continuing to rise and wages showing some evidence of picking up we remain optimistic on the prospects for consumer spending", said James Knightley chief global economist at ING.

Retail sales alone increased 4.3% from a year ago, with the largest gain again coming from non-store retailers - primarily by e-commerce and catalog businesses with sales up 11.5% from July 2016. June's retail sales were revised to show a 0.3 per cent gain instead of the previously reported 0.2 per cent drop.

The July retail sales report was strong overall, and so was the core retail sales, which goes into the calculation of GDP, according to Eugenio J. Alemán, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities.

Economists have been expecting the US economy to pick up steam in the second half of the year and that view got some support from the latest retail sales report - with a bit of help from Amazon.

Long-suffering department stores likewise showed signs of life, but cheap gasoline and falling sales of electronics and clothing still weighed on sales last month.

Retail sales for June and May also were revised higher, which should help to assuage concerns about consumer spending, But persistently sluggish wage growth has pushed Americans to dip into their savings to fund spending.

Motor vehicle sales climbed 1.2 per cent in July, the biggest rise since December 2016, after advancing 0.9 per cent in June.

Amazon's Prime Day helped boost USA retail sales in July. There were sales gains in other areas, including furniture stores, hardware stores and restaurants. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales increasing 0.4% last month.

  • Wendy Palmer