In volume terms, retail sales slid 0.7% monthly and by 1.9% yearly in January.
USA consumers spent less at auto dealers, gas stations and department stores in February, causing overall retail sales to slip 0.1 percent despite signs elsewhere of a robust economy and the tax cuts signed into law by President Donald Trump starting to take effect.
Sales of non-food products declined 0.7% over the month, while those of food products showed no variations.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that sales have declined for the past three months, but they're still 4 percent higher from a year ago.
The value of retail sales fell 0.5% month-over-month in January, slower than the 0.9% drop in December. Sales of newly built homes and existing homes have both increased in the previous year, and they need to be outfitted with new furnishing and new appliances.
Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of USA economic activity, appears to have slowed at the start of the year after accelerating at a 3.8% annualised rate in the fourth quarter. Fed officials view the labor market as being near or a little beyond full employment. The economy created 313,000 jobs in February.
The drop was unexpected in part because many Americans' tax withholdings dropped in early February due to a $1.5 trillion tax break signed into law late past year. Slower consumer spending supports expectations of modest economic growth in the first quarter.
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Andrew Hunter, US economist at Capital Economics, said that sales were "subdued..."
The economy grew at a 2.5 percent pace in the fourth quarter, the government reported last month. Auto sales fell 0.9% in February after a similar drop in January. The GDP projections for the first quarter of the year are for growth of about 2% on an annual basis.
But there were some pockets of strength.
Electronics and appliance stores were up 4.3 percent year-over-year but down 0.1 percent from January seasonally adjusted. Sales at building material stores surged 1.9 percent last month.
Home improvement spending has increased significantly over the past year. Non-store sales rose 1% from January and 10.1% year over year.
The US central bank's preferred inflation measure, the personal consumption expenditures price index excluding food and energy, has been undershooting its target since May 2012. The sales in restaurants and bars rose by 0.2%.