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US Retail Sales Mark March Decline

FILE: FILE - Customers at a U.S. retail store looking at TVs. Taken Nov. 26, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

WASHINGTON - Retail sales in the United States slipped more than anticipated in March, according to government data released Friday, extending a downward trend that signals cooling in the economy.

Retail sales fell by one percent in March from a month prior, to $691.7 billion, said the Commerce Department, adding that February's contraction was revised to a smaller 0.2 percent as well.

But compared with the same period last year, retail sales were still 2.9 percent higher.

The slide in March came on the back of contractions seen in sales of motor vehicles and parts, electronics and appliances, as well as in general merchandise stores.

Sales at food and beverage stores, however, only shrank slightly, the data showed.

A bigger-than-expected drop in sales would offer "yet more evidence that the apparent strength in consumption so far this year was nothing more than a weather-driven fluke," said Pantheon Macroeconomics in a recent report.

The data also follows a trend of slowing price increases, with inflation cooling to 5.0 percent last month - the smallest annual jump since May 2021.

The US central bank has raised interest rates steeply since early last year to lower demand and rein in high inflation, and there are signs that its policy is starting to bite.