Americans cut spending at gasoline stations, department stores and electronics shops in May as retail sales registered their biggest drop in 16 months, a cautionary sign for the economy.
The Commerce Department says retail sales dropped 0.3 percent last month, the first decline since February and the sharpest since a 1 percent decrease in January 2016. Economists had expected sales to increase slightly last month after rising 0.4 percent in April.
Sales sank 2.8 percent at electronics stores, 2.4 percent at gasoline stations and 1 percent at department stores, which have struggled with competition from online retailers.
Economists have said they think consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, will pick up in the spring and summer after a slow start to 2017.