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US retail sales increase in Dec; Nov sales revised up

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US retail sales rose for a third straight month in December, with households buying a range of goods even as they cut back on purchases of motor vehicles, which could strengthen the view that the economy maintained a moderate growth pace at the end of 2019.

[WASHINGTON] US retail sales rose for a third straight month in December, with households buying a range of goods even as they cut back on purchases of motor vehicles, which could strengthen the view that the economy maintained a moderate growth pace at the end of 2019.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday retail sales increased 0.3 per cent last month. Data for November was revised up to show retail sales gaining 0.3 per cent instead of rising 0.2 per cent as previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales would gain 0.3 per cent in December. Compared to December last year, retail sales accelerated 5.8 per cent.

Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales jumped 0.5 per cent last month after falling by a downwardly revised 0.1 per cent in November.

The so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product. They were previously reported to have edged up 0.1 per cent in November.

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Sales rose in December despite retailers such as Target Corp , Kohl's, JC Penney and Macy's reporting a decline in sales for the holiday period as foot traffic in malls dropped.

Though a report last week showed a slowdown in job growth in December and the increase in the annual wage gain retreating to below 3.0 per cent, consumers will continue to shoulder the longest economic expansion on record, now in its 11th year, thanks to higher savings, rising house prices and a bullish stock market.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity, grew at a 3.2 per cent annualised rate in the third quarter. Growth in consumer spending is expected to have slowed to around or below a 2.5 per cent rate in the fourth quarter. The economy expanded at a 2.1  per cent pace in the July-September period.

Growth estimates for the fourth quarter are as high as a 2.5 per cent rate, in part because of a drop in imports, which compressed the trade deficit.

In December, auto sales fell 1.3 per cent the biggest drop since last January, after increasing 1.5 per cent in November. Higher gasoline prices lifted receipts at service stations, which jumped 2.8 per cent. Online and mail-order retail sales rose 0.2 per cent after being unchanged in November.

Sales at electronics and appliance stores rebounded 0.6 per cent in December. Receipts at building material stores surged 1.4 per cent and sales at clothing stores accelerated 1.6 per cent. Spending at furniture stores edged up 0.1 per cent.

REUTERS