Americans cut back their spending last month as a spike in COVID-19 cases kept people out of stores. The US Commerce Department said on Tuesday that retail sales fell at a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.1% in July from the previous month.
It was a much bigger drop than the 0.3% drop Wall Street analysts had expected. While the report provides the first commanding glimpse into how the delta-variable spread of COVID-19 has changed Americans’ spending habits. At the end of July, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending that vaccinated people start wearing masks in public.
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Now, according to Tuesday’s report, spending in stores that sell clothing, furniture and sporting goods has fallen. In restaurants and bars, spending is still up about 2%, but the growth rate has slowed in recent months. While the billionaire Warren Buffett’s company has increased its bet on grocery giant Kroger while scaling back many of its investments in healthcare.
However, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said. In a quarterly update with regulators, it said it bought nearly 11 million shares of Kroger stock during the second quarter, bringing its holdings to 61.8 million shares. Berkshire also sold 643,022 shares of biotech company Biogen and reduced its investments in pharmaceutical companies Merck and Abbvie Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb.