US retail sales fell in September, the first decline in seven months, the Commerce Department has said today.

Total retail and food services sales dropped 0.3% from August, slightly more than the 0.2% expected on average by analysts.

Excluding car sales, retail sales were down 0.2%, according to the data, which is not adjusted for price changes.

Retail sales are closely watched for signs of the health of consumer spending, the main driver of US economic activity. 

Clothing stores were the hardest hit in September, with sales down 1.2%, followed by building material and garden stores, down 1.1%.

Non-store retailers, mostly online firms, also saw a decline, of 1.1%.

The sector with the biggest sales gains, by far, was electronics and appliance stores, up 3.4%, the largest monthly gain since April 2013, reflecting Apple's launch of new iPhone models. 

Year-over-year, retail sales advanced 4.3%.

US producer prices fall first time in a year

US producer prices fell in September for the first time since August 2013, pulled lower by falling energy and food prices, the Labor Department said today. 

The producer price index dipped 0.1% in September, after a flat reading in August and a 0.1% gain in July. 

Analysts had expected producer prices to rise by 0.1% amid tepid price changes on goods and services in the "pipeline" - before they reach consumers. 

Year-on-year, producer prices were up 1.6%, the slowest rate since March. 

In September, energy prices fell for the third month in a row, by 0.7%, while food prices also fell by 0.7%, the biggest drop in a year. 

Stripping out volatile food and energy prices, core producer prices were flat. 

The data offered fresh evidence of tame inflation in the modestly growing US economy, well below the Federal Reserve's longer-term 2% target. 

In August, consumer prices fell for the first time in more than a year, dragged lower by declines in energy, and core prices were flat.