FILE- In this Jan. 7, 2019, file photo a customer shops in a Sears store in the Brooklyn borough of New York. On Monday, March 11, the Commerce Department releases U.S. retail sales data for December and January. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

US retail sales up just 0.2 pct. as consumers stay cautious

March 11, 2019 - 8:35 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. retail sales rose slightly in January after a sharp drop in December, reflecting caution taken by consumers amid a government shutdown and volatile stock market.

The Commerce Department said Monday that retail sales increased just 0.2 percent, after a sharp fall of 1.6 percent in December, the biggest drop in 9 years.

The economy has stumbled after healthy growth last summer and fall. Weaker economies overseas, the U.S.-China trade fight, and the 35-day government shutdown dented consumer and business confidence. Economists believe growth could fall below a 1 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year.

In January, auto sales plunged by the most in five years, and furniture and electronics stores sales also declined.

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