US retail sales held steady in July as fuel prices fell and spending on automobiles dropped sharply, according to government data on Wednesday, which showed signs that consumers continued to spend.
Americans flush with savings have been a key driver of the US pandemic recovery, and the Federal Reserve is keeping a careful eye on economic data as it battles to quash red-hot inflation without tipping the world's largest economy into recession.
While the headline data of the closely-watched report flatlined at US$682.8 billion, rather than rise slightly as economists had expected, sales increased 0.7 percent when petrol and motor vehicles are excluded from the calculation, the Commerce Department said.
US petrol prices at the pump soared in the wake of the Russian attack on Ukraine in late February, but in recent weeks have been trending down and have fallen by more than US$1 a gallon after hitting an all-time high of over US$5 in mid-June, squeezing family budgets.
While spending on automobiles fell 1.7 percent and petrol stations dropped 1.8 percent, Americans ramped up spending on furniture, food, electronics and at online stores.
Sales of building materials and garden supplies jumped 1.5 percent, but at clothing and department stores they fell.
The data are seasonally adjusted but do not take into account changes in prices. (AFP)