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US Retail Sales Post First Decline in Seven Months | News & Analysis

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States — US retail sales fell for the first time in seven months in September, which could raise fears that manufacturing-led weakness was spreading to the broader economy, keeping the Federal Reserve on course to cut interest rates again this month.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday retail sales dropped 0.3 percent last month as households cut back spending on motor vehicles, building materials, hobbies and online purchases. That was the first and biggest drop since February.

Data for August was revised up to show retail sales gaining 0.6 percent instead of 0.4 percent as previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales would climb 0.3 percent in September. Compared to September last year, retail sales increased 4.1 percent.

Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales were unchanged last month after advancing by an unrevised 0.3 percent in August. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.

Last month’s drop and August’s unrevised gain in core retail sales likely suggest a much more significant slowdown in consumer spending in the third quarter than economists had been anticipating after a surge in the prior quarter.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy, increased at a 4.6 percent annualised rate in the second quarter, the most in 1-1/2 years.

It has been the economy’s pillar of support as the White House’s 15-month trade war with China has soured business sentiment, leading to a decline in capital expenditure and a recession in manufacturing.

Signs of a rapid deceleration in consumer spending, coming on the heels of data showing a moderation in hiring and services sector industry activity in September, could further stoke financial market fears of a sharper slowdown in economic growth.

Though President Donald Trump announced a temporary truce in the trade war with China last Friday, which delayed additional tariffs that were due this month, economists say the longest economic expansion on record remained in danger without all import duties being rolled back.

The International Monetary Fund warned on Tuesday that the US-China trade war would cut 2019 global growth to its slowest pace since the 2008-2009 financial crisis, and expressed caution over Trump’s so-called Phase 1 trade deal, saying more details were needed.

With consumer spending slowing, a full trade deal still elusive and the likelihood of a disorderly exit from the European Union by Britain, many economists expect the Fed to cut interest rates at its October 29-30 policy meeting to keep the expansion, now in its 11th year, on track.

The US central bank cut rates in September after reducing borrowing costs in July for the first time since 2008.

The Atlanta Fed is forecasting GDP increased at a 1.7 percent annualised rate in the third quarter. The economy grew at a 2.0 percent pace in the April-June quarter, slowing from the first quarter’s brisk 3.1 percent rate. The government will publish its snapshot of third-quarter GDP at the end of the month.

Auto sales fell 0.9 percent in September, the most in eight months, after accelerating 1.9 percent in August. Receipts at service stations fell 0.7 percent, likely reflecting cheaper gasoline.

Sales at electronics and appliance stores were unchanged, getting no boost from the launch of Apple’s new iPhone model. Sales at building material stores fell 1.0 percent. Online and mail-order retail sales dropped 0.3 percent, the most since December 2018. That followed a 1.2 percent increase in August.

But receipts at clothing stores rose 1.3 percent, while sales at furniture stores increased 0.6 percent. Sales at restaurants and bars gained 0.2 percent. Spending at hobby, musical instrument and book stores dipped 0.1 percent.

By Lucia Mutikani; editor: Paul Simao.

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What Are the Benefits of Turmeric?

Dr. Amit X. Garg, a professor of medicine at Western University in London, Ontario, knew about turmeric’s medicinal use because of his Indian heritage. He knew firsthand of its rich cultural significance too: On his wedding day, his relatives rubbed the spice all over him because it is believed to be cleansing.

After seeing the effectiveness of curcumin, in smaller studies, Dr. Garg and his colleagues decided to test it on a larger scale in hopes it would make elective aortic surgery safer by reducing the risk of complications, which include heart attacks, kidney injury and death. In the randomized clinical trial that followed, about half of the 606 patients were administered 2,000 milligrams of curcumin eight times over for four days, while the others were given a placebo. “It was a bit disappointing, but we couldn’t demonstrate any benefit used in this setting,” Dr. Garg said of the study, published last year in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

In fact, there is not enough reliable evidence in humans to recommend turmeric or curcumin for any condition, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Turmeric became a nutritional golden child partly because of its promise in laboratory studies — cellular and animal. Some research indicates that both turmeric and curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric supplements, have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and antiparasitic activity. But this has mostly been demonstrated in laboratory studies, and, in many cases, the benefits of preclinical research isn’t observed in clinical trials.

According to Natural Medicines, a database that provides monographs for dietary supplements, herbal medicines, and complementary and integrative therapies, while some clinical evidence shows that curcumin might be beneficial for depression, hay fever, hyperlipidemia, ulcerative colitis, osteoarthritis and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, it’s still too early to recommend the compound for any of these conditions.

And Natural Medicines has found there isn’t enough good scientific evidence to rate turmeric or curcumin’s use for memory, diabetes, fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, gingivitis, joint pain, PMS, eczema or hangovers.

Physicians say more research is needed. Dr. Gary W. Small, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies curcumin’s effect on memory, sees a lot of therapeutic potential. He also states that existing research demonstrates curcumin’s biological effects.

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