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Economy & Business

U.S. Retail Sales Tick Up in May

Traders at the New York Stock Exchange (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

U.S. retail sales ticked upward slightly in May, assuaging fears that the economy was beginning to cool in the wake of an unexpectedly poor monthly jobs report.

Retail sales rose 0.5 percent last month, while what had initially been reported as a 0.2 percent decrease in April’s retail sales was revised upward to a .3 percent increase, according to a Commerce Department report published Friday.

A variety of sectors — including motor vehicles, building materials, garden equipment, furniture, electronics, appliances, online and mail-order purchases, hobbies, music, books, and eating and drinking out — saw increases in May sales, according to the report.

The Labor Department reported last week that the economy added only 75,000 jobs in May, its worst showing since February and well below analyst predictions of 175,000 new jobs. Jobs gains for the previous two months were also revised downward by 75,000. Unemployment remains at 3.6 percent, a 50-year low, while wages have grown only 3.1 percent since this time last year.

Investors and consumers alike have sweated over how much trade tensions between Washington and Beijing will slow the economy. China has exchanged harsh words with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo since trade talks fell apart last month, accusing him of being a “Cold War warrior” who uses “gangster style” tactics to “foment dissension,” adding that his “remarks are filled with lies and fallacies.”

The remarks came after President Trump raised tariffs from 10 to 25 percent last month on $200 billion of Chinese imports, accusing the world’s second-largest economy of reneging on terms of a previously agreed-upon trade deal. Those tariffs came in addition to an existing 25 percent tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese high-tech products. China, for its part, said it will raise tariffs on $60 billion worth of American goods in retaliation.

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