China's consumer comeback stays elusive

Dashing expectations of modest growth, China's retail sales slipped in July.

Consumers in the world's second-largest economy failed to shake off wariness about the global health crisis.

Retail sales dropped over a percent on the year - missing predictions for a 0.1% rise.

The decline was broad based with garments, cosmetics, home appliances and furniture all worsening.

A key exception was auto sales, which surged 12.3%, turning around an 8.2% fall in June.

But the factory sector's recovery struggled to pick up pace.

Industrial output grew 4.8% in July from a year earlier, in line with June's growth but less than forecast.

Asian and European markets pulled back following the disappointing numbers.

It raises concerns about the fragility of China's emergence from the slump.

It's been gaining pace as pent-up demand, government stimulus and resilient exports revived activity.

But the data showed weaker-than-expected year-on-year industrial output growth and retail sales extending declines into a seventh straight month.

Some analysts attributed the loss of momentum to the torrential rains that have flooded Southern China since June

as well as several fresh outbreaks that have led to partial lockdowns.

Another risk to the recovery is an increasingly tense U.S.-China relationship ahead of the U.S. presidential elections in November.

Analysts say it has prompted Beijing to turn its focus to domestically driven growth.