WASHINGTON (3/13/15)--Retail sales fell 0.6% in February, the third straight month of decline and the first time retail sales have dropped in three consecutive months since the second quarter of 2012 (Economy.com March 12).
Previous declines were driven by low energy prices, pinned down by the falling price of oil, but February's step back was fueled by a reduction in auto sales for the month, according to Moody's.
Excluding autos, sales only fell by 0.1%.
"The February retail sales report came in well below expectations and on the surface suggests consumers are cutting back on their spending despite low energy prices and very strong job gains," said Scott Hoyt, Moody's analyst (Economy.com).
Though, February and January usually post the weakest months of sales for the year, largely because of weather effects, Hoyt added.
The rising price of oil pushed sales ahead at both gasoline stations and fuel oil dealers, rising 1.5% and 2.2% respectively, Moody's said.
Sporting goods and grocery stores were also among the few areas of strength for retail sales in February.
On an annual basis, sales climbed 1.7%, which is the weakest year-over-year growth since 2009.
However, the poor growth performance can largely be attributed to the bottomed-out oil prices the country has seen over the past few months, Hoyt said.