Americans kept shopping in September, driving retail sales higher for a fifth straight month.
The Commerce Department reports retail sales jumped 1.9 percent rising much more than economists had expected. With many Americans afraid to take public transportation amid the health crisis, consumers splurged on cars. They also ate out, boosting spending at restaurants and bars. People staying at home also spent money on furniture and clothing. Retail sales have now bounced back above their February level.
But the outlook for the overall economy remains murky. Jobless claims are rising, Washington is at an impasse over another fiscal stimulus package, and rising coronavirus infections could lead to business restrictions that could hurt consumer spending.
Still, U.S. consumers are growing more optimistic about the future.
The University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers out Friday said its preliminary index reading for October climbed to 81.2. It was the highest level since March and stronger than expected.