Hurricane Sandy damaged U.S. auto retail sales in October image

U.S. auto retail sales fell in October for the first time in three months as Hurricane Sandy prevented people from purchasing automobiles.

According to the Commerce Department, sales fell 0.3 percent after a 1.3 percent increase in September. The decline partly reflected the impact from Hurricane Sandy, which hit the densely populated East Coast, holding down auto sales.

However, the Commerce Department said the storm had both positive and negative effects on October’s sales data, according to indications received from companies. Motor vehicle sales declined 1.5 percent, the largest fall since August 2011, after increasing 1.7 percent in September. Auto manufacturers have blamed the storm for the drop in sales.

Carmakers expect auto sales to rebound in November, after estimates that around 250,000 vehicles have been irreversibly damaged by the storm. Excluding autos, retail sales were unchanged in October, after a gain of 1.2 percent in September.

The storm also affected sales at clothing stores, which fell 0.1 percent after rising 0.4 percent in September. Building material sales also fell 1.9 percent, despite expectations of a boost from pre-storm purchases. In September, building materials and garden equipment sales has increased 2.1 percent.