The numbers: Sales at U.S. retailers rose modestly in October with the help of a pandemic-delayed Amazon Prime Day, but the already-fading momentum is in danger of softening even further amid a record coronavus outbreak.
Retail sales rose 0.3% last month, the government said Tuesday, matching the forecast of economists polled by MarketWatch. Although it was the sixth advance in a row, it was also the smallest gain since the economy reopened in May.
If auto dealers and gasoline stations are excluded, sales climbed a lackluster 0.2% in October. Auto and gas receipts can swing sharply from month to month and distort underlying trends in the retail sales.
What happened: Sales rose the fastest among so-called nonstore retailers , mainly online purveyers led by Amazon
Receipts jumped 3.1%.
Internet sales have soared during the pandemic. The virus accelerated a long-running shift toward online buying and away from on-premise shopping at brick-and-mortar locations.
Department stores, on the other hand, have been losing ground for years and the pandemic has caused some to go bankrupt. Sales sank 4.6% in October.
Sales also rose at auto dealers, gas stations, home centers and electronic stores.
Sales declined at grocers, bars, restaurants, pharmacies and stores that sell hobby items and home furnishings.
Big picture: Retail sales rebounded far faster than anyone would expected six months ago and now exceed prepandemic levels, but the return of cold weather and record increase in coronavirus cases poses another stiff test.
The viral surge has spurred a small but growing numbers of cities and states to reimpose restrictions on indoor dining and attendance at theaters and other entertainment venues, among other things. And colder weather limits the ability to serve customers outdoors.
If the situation gets any worse, retailers are likely to face the bleakest holiday shopping season since the end of the Great Recession more than a decade ago.
Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
and S&P 500
were set to open lower in Tuesday trades. Stocks rose on Monday after the Moderna
announcement that its pending vaccine is effective.