WASHINGTON -- American shoppers curbed their spending in May, sending retail sales nationwide down by a bigger-than-expected 0.3 percent, marking the second month in a row in which retail sales have fallen.
The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that retail sales nationwide fell to a seasonally adjusted $266 billion last month, the first back-to-back decline since July and August of 1998.
A big drop in sales at hardware, building and garden supply stores led the decline.
Many analysts were expecting retail sales to actually go up in May. They were predicting a tiny increase of 0.1 percent.
In April, retail sales fell 0.6 percent, much weaker than the government estimated one month ago. Economists blamed that decline on dreary weather, stock market volatility and rising interest rates.
The Federal Reserve has bumped up short-term interest rates six times since last June.
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