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Washington (AFP) – U.S. retail sales fell unexpectedly for the second straight month in January, dragged down by a drop in auto sales, government data showed Thursday.

Retail and food service sales dropped 0.4 percent from December, the Commerce Department said.

Excluding auto sales, retail sales were flat in January. Sales of motor vehicles and parts tumbled 2.1 percent.

The department also revised December’s reading down to a decline of 0.1 percent, from the prior estimate of a 0.2 percent gain.

Both December, the crucial holiday shopping month, and January were marked by severe winter weather in large parts of the country that may have depressed sales.

But analysts also pointed to consumers’ tighter wallets.

“Consumers cash flows are constrained, and retailers are now feeling the squeeze,” said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroneconomics.

AFP Photo/Frederic J. Brown

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