Jessica McEntee looks through dresses while shopping at a clothing boutique in Cambridge, Mass on Sept. 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Americans barely spent more last month at retail businesses and restaurants after higher taxes cut their paychecks. The small increase suggests consumer spending may be weak in the January-March quarter, which could hold back economic growth.
Retail sales ticked up 0.1 percent in January from December, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That follows a 0.5-percent increase in December and is the smallest in three months. Sales fell at auto dealerships, clothing stores and furniture stores. The declines came after big gains in each of those categories in December. Sales rose last month at home-improvement stores, gas stations and online retailers.
So-called core retail sales, which exclude autos, building materials, and gas stations, ticked up 0.2 percent. That's down from 0.6 percent in December.
Meanwhile, U.S. companies restocked their store shelves and warehouses at a slower pace in December, a sign of caution as sales weakened. Slower restocking was a major drag on the economy in the final three months of last year.
Business inventories ticked up 0.1 percent in December from November, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That was below the 0.2 percent pace the previous month and the smallest increase since last June.