Considering the Japan tsunami... "(Journal of Commerce Online â Joseph Bonney) Excluding autos, retail sales rose 0.3% last month Overall retail sales fell in May for the first time in 11 months but the decline was less than expected and due largely to a sharp drop in auto sales, government data show. Total retail sales slipped 0.2% after a rise of 0.3% in April, the Commerce Department said. Economists' consensus estimates had called for a 0.4% decline in May. Retail sales account for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity and a large portion of containerized imports and domestic intermodal traffic. Commerce Department data show that retail sales last month were hurt by a 2.9% drop in sales of motor vehicles as a shortage of parts following the earthquake in Japan left inventories lean and prompted manufacturers to raise prices. Excluding autos, retail sales rose 0.3% last month after rising 0.5% in April. A separate National Retail Federation measure excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, showed store sales growing a seasonally adjusted 0.1% from April to May and 5% compared to May 2010. Last week's "Beige Book" report by the Federal Reserve indicated the natural disasters in Japan affected U.S. sales by "substantially" reducing the flow of new cars to dealers in some regions. The report suggested spending in most Fed districts was steady or modestly higher despite higher gasoline and food prices. The Commerce Department's retail sales statistics are adjusted for seasonal variations but not for inflation. Excluding gasoline, the government figures show retail sales fell 0.3% after rising 0.1% in April. Sales at food and beverage stores fell 0.5%, while receipts at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores dropped 0.4%. Sales of electronics and appliances fell 1.3%, the largest decline since March 2010. Sales by clothing stores rose 0.2% from April, while sales at building materials and garden equipment suppliers rose 1.2%."