After a week of uncertainty pushed by lackluster results, particularly among department store retailers, along with uncertainty over U.S.-China trade relations, the markets got some good news in the form of July retail sales figures. July retail sales saw a 0.7 percent increase, according to reports on Thursday (Aug. 15). That result came in far above the 0.3 percent pickup analysts had been forecasting.
And taking out such volatile segments as auto and gas sales, retail sales were up 0.9 percent.
The areas of major push for increases were online sales, as internet retailers saw a 2.8 increase during the month of July. That big bounce is likely an offshoot result of Amazon's Prime Day event, along with competing sales, deals and offers made by its retail competitors looking to draft onto the shopping holiday. But even beyond the web, reports indicate sales were up at department stores, restaurants and electronics outlets.
Gas station sales also jumped by 1.8 percent during the month — and that was most likely brought on by a rapid uptick in oil prices in July. Those higher figures, however, will likely recede during this month (August) as oil prices have since returned to normal historical levels.
Numbers were down in auto sales by 0.6 percent, as well as at music, book and sporting goods stores.
The strong sales results paired with a historically low unemployment rate seems to indicate that the U.S. population is, by and large, confident enough about its economic future to continue spending. Whether that consumer confidence will be enough to keep the U.S. out of an increasingly predicted recession will likely depend on a variety of factors.
Chief among those factors may be whether trade relationships between the U.S. and China improve — or degrade — between now and the commerce-heavy fourth quarter.