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Slower auto sales led drop in U.S. retail spending in May

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Auto sales led May spending decline

Retail sales fell in May, dragged down by a decline in auto sales and a shift by Americans to spending more on vacations and other services instead of goods.

Total sales fell a seasonally adjusted 1.3 percent in May from April, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

Economists had predicted that retail sales would decline in May because of a shortage of new vehicles resulting from a worldwide shortage of the computer chips that are used in vehicle electronics. Sales at auto dealerships fell 3.7 percent last month, the government said.

Another reason for the decrease: As more Americans are vaccinated and want to head out more, they are spending money on haircuts, trips and other services not included in Tuesday’s report. Last month, sales fell at furniture, electronics and home building stores.

That switch to spending on services also is likely to help reduce the goods shortages that have plagued some parts of the economy and boosted inflation.

— Associated Press

U.S. charitable giving hit record in 2020

Galvanized by the racial justice protests and the coronavirus pandemic, charitable giving in the United States reached a record $471 billion in 2020, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Giving USA report says Americans gave more to charity last year than in 2019, despite an economic downturn that disrupted the paychecks of millions. Faced with greater needs, estates and foundations also opened their pocketbooks at increased levels — resulting in a 5.1 percent spike in total giving from the $448 billion recorded for 2019, or a 3.8 percent jump when adjusted for inflation.

Although wealthy individuals contributed to the spike in giving to educational nonprofits and other charities, the findings for the report come from an analysis of IRS tax data for 128 million U.S. households, as well as other surveys. It is the first study to provide a comprehensive look into how donors — big and small — stepped up to meet the increased needs highlighted by the economic crisis, racial unrest and a global pandemic.

— Associated Press

Nintendo said its highly anticipated next game in the Zelda franchise, a sequel to “Breath of the Wild,” will be out in 2022. The company did not share a final title or other details, although a brief trailer showcased the game’s hero, Link, using abilities that were not included in the first game. Series producer Eiji Aonuma said the sequel would be set in the skies above the first game’s world. In a recorded presentation Tuesday as part of the E3 video game showcase, Nintendo did not mention the rumored upgraded version of the Switch, expected to be released this year. The Japanese company plans to introduce a new model with a seven-inch OLED display and a faster graphics chip.

Wholesale prices, driven by rising food costs, increased 0.8 percent in May and by an unprecedented amount over the past year as the U.S. economy emerged from pandemic lockdowns and rebounding demand pushed inflation higher. The monthly gain in the producer price index, which measures inflation pressure before it reaches consumers, followed a 0.6 percent increase in April and a 1 percent jump in March, the Labor Department reported Tuesday. Food prices jumped a sizable 2.6 percent, with the cost of beef and veal rising, although the cost of fresh fruits declined. Energy costs rose 2.2 percent, reversing a 2.4 percent drop in April.

Confidence among U.S. home builders declined in June to a 10-month low as elevated costs continued to dampen demand for new homes. A gauge of builder sentiment fell to 81 this month from 83, data from the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo showed Tuesday. The decline in sentiment indicates that persistent elevated costs for some building materials and labor are keeping some buyers out of the once red-hot U.S. housing market.

Oracle beat Wall Street estimates for fourth-quarter revenue and profit Tuesday, helped by demand for its cloud services as people continued to work remotely. Oracle’s cloud platform, which competes with Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post), has benefited from businesses opting for hybrid-work models. Revenue at Oracle’s largest unit, cloud services and license support, rose 8 percent to $7.39 billion during the quarter. Net income rose to $4.03 billion from $3.12 billion a year earlier.

— From news reports