Solid U.S. retail sales point to brisk consumer spending

Thu Dec 11, 2014 8:35am EST
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WASHINGTON Dec 11 (Reuters) - U.S. consumer spending advanced at a brisk clip in November as lower gasoline prices gave the holiday shopping season a boost, offering the latest sign of underlying momentum in the economy.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services increased 0.6 percent last month after an unrevised 0.5 percent rise in October.

The so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected core retail sales to rise 0.4 percent last month.

Last month's increase suggested consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, was accelerating in the fourth quarter after slowing a bit in the July-September period.

It added to November's bullish employment report in painting a fairly upbeat picture of the economy, despite a recession in Japan and faltering growth in the euro zone, China and major emerging markets.

Core sales last month were lifted by a 1.2 percent jump in receipts at clothing stores, an indication that the holiday shopping season got off to a solid start, with retailers offering discounts to attract shoppers.

Receipts at online stores increased 1.0 percent. Sales at electronic and appliance stores advanced 0.9 percent, while receipts at furniture stores rose 0.5 percent. Sales at sporting goods stores rose as did receipts at health and personal care stores.

While declining gasoline prices are stimulating consumer spending, they weighed on service station sales, with receipts falling 0.8 percent.   Continued...

A shopper carries an Apple product at The Grove mall in Los Angeles November 26, 2013.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson