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July auto sales mixed in major markets

New vehicle sales in the U.S. and Japan increased in July as China experienced a decline, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis.

As the July sales report by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, or ACEA, as it typically takes a summer break during July and August. The ACEA will report the sales data for those months in September.

US new vehicle sales rise YOY in July

The overall nonseasonally adjusted U.S. vehicle sales totaled 1.39 million units in July, up 2.1% from 1.36 million vehicles in the year-ago period, according to data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

In July, passenger car sales in the U.S. fell 9% to 379,179 units from 416,716 units in July 2018. Sales of trucks, minivans and SUVs increased 7.1% in July to 1.01 million units from 946,248 in the year-ago period.

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Among automakers, Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co. Ltd. saw its U.S. sales increase 1.9% year over year to 141,296 units.

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Rival Toyota Motor Corp.'s total vehicle sales in the U.S. increased 0.2% on a volume basis in July. The automaker said it sold 209,204 units during the month, compared with 208,770 units in the same month last year.

At Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., sales decreased by 9.1% year over year to 98,880 units.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV no longer report monthly sales data.

Average interest rates for new vehicles declined for the third month in a row to 5.8% in July, the lowest level of 2019 so far, car shopping experts at Edmunds said in an Aug. 1 statement. In comparison, the average interest rate for June was 6%.

"Rising vehicle costs and high interest rates have been placing immense pressure on the new-car market all year, so it's nice to see shoppers get a bit of a reprieve," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of industry analysis, noting that interest rates have likely dipped because auto companies and dealers are "sweetening deals" to sell 2018 models.

The Federal Reserve lowered its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points in July. Caldwell said the rate cut will not make much of a real difference to consumers' wallets.

"People might hear this news and think this means buying a car just got a lot cheaper, but in reality, shoppers aren't going to see much of a difference in their car payment from a quarter percent rate cut," Caldwell said.

China reports a drop, Japan auto sales rise

Japan auto sales increased from a year earlier as Toyota sold the most vehicles during the month.

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Total sales in the country rose to 379,422 units from 368,887 vehicles in the year-ago period, according to data from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Toyota sold 135,880 units in Japan, up from 126,118 vehicles in July 2018. Meanwhile, Honda sold 61,000 units in July, more than the 56,377 units it sold in the year-ago period.

China's passenger-car sales declined 11.6% year over year to 1.53 million units in July amid ongoing trade tensions with the U.S.

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