NEW YORK, JULY 9 -- The nation's largest general retailers reported mostly favorable June sales results today, and analysts surveying the figures said they expect consumer spending will continue at a cautious rate.
Retailers had their strongest results in clothing lines, as consumers bought warm weather apparel, said Monroe Greenstein, a retail industry analyst with Bear, Stearns & Co. Sales of more expensive lines, including appliances and televisions, were soft.
"Sales were good," summed up Greenstein.
The nation's largest retailer, Sears, Roebuck & Co., reported its June sales rose 4.5 percent compared with June 1986 figures, while No. 2 K mart Corp. said its sales rose 6.5 percent.
Some stores reported that they lost some business in June to especially strong results in May, said Jeffrey Feiner, an analyst with Merrill Lynch & Co.
However, he said retailers' profits were expected to be strong in the second quarter, "aided by tight controls on expenses and inventories."
"Based on the June sales performance, we continue to expect consumer spending to remain at relatively modest levels," said Feiner,
Consumers are holding down their spending while they pay off their high debt levels. The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that Americans paid off $560 million more in credit than they borrowed during May.
Consumer spending is important because it accounts for about two-thirds of the gross national product.
From the retailers' perspective, while the first part of the year is important, they are more concerned with the second half, as they make the lion's share of their profits from the pre-Christmas and Christmas season.
The results reported today were for general retailers and apparel stores, and do not include retailers such as supermarkets and new car dealers