Retail sales unexpectedly fell for the third month in a row, as harsh weather kept consumers away from not only the malls, but also the car dealers.
Third time- not a charm for retail sales. They fell in the U.S. for the third straight month. The Commerce Department said on Thursday retail sales dropped 0.6 percent last month after declining 0.8 percent in January. Core retail sales, which exclude food and energy, were flat. Harsh weather kept consumers at home. IHS Global Insight's Chris Christopher: SOUNDBITE: CHRIS CHRISTOPHER, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL & U.S. CONSUMER MARKETS, IHS GLOBAL INSIGHT (ENGLISH) SAYING: "When it's colder weather out and you have a heavy snowfall in some parts of the country people stay away from restaurants. They don't want to go to the shopping mall. They don't want to go to an automobile dealership. They hunker down. They fill up on gas, go to the grocery store, and they shop online." But Christopher is optimistic that as the weather improves- consumers will open their wallets: SOUNDBITE: CHRIS CHRISTOPHER, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL & U.S. CONSUMER MARKETS, IHS GLOBAL INSIGHT (ENGLISH) SAYING: "There will be a nice bounce back in March. Some of the numbers we saw for February were lower than we expected so we are going to downgrade our consumer spending down to below 3 percent. However, consumer spending in the second and third quarter will be almost close to 4 percent. " But with the Fed meeting next week on interest rates- this report raises questions about the strength of the recovery- which some economists and traders think could delay a raise in rates.