Retail sales climb as Americans snap up autos, electronics

Retail sales in the U.S. rose in November as demand for automobiles rebounded and holiday shoppers snapped up electronics and clothes.

The 0.3 percent gain followed a 0.3 percent decrease in October, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 81 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.5 percent rise. The biggest drop in service-station receipts in four years, reflecting lower fuel costs, restrained the gain in total purchases.

Car sales jumped last month to a four-year high, in part because Americans in Sandy’s path replaced damaged vehicles. Federal Reserve policy makers yesterday expanded stimulus in a bid to reduce unemployment and spur the economy as chains such as Macy’s Inc. cut prices to lure customers increasingly concerned about looming tax increases and government cutbacks.

“The details look pretty solid,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “The consumer is continuing to support the recovery, which is important because identifying the sources of growth is becoming increasingly difficult. The burden is really starting to fall on the consumer.”

Other reports today showed claims for jobless benefits fell more than forecast last week and producer prices dropped in November as energy costs retreated.

Fewer Claims

Applications for unemployment insurance payments dropped by 29,000 to 343,000 in the week ended Dec. 8, the fewest since reaching a four-year low in early October, Labor Department figures showed. Economists forecast 369,000 claims, according to the Bloomberg survey median.

The producer price index declined 0.8 percent last month, the most since May, after falling 0.2 percent in October, other Labor Department figures also showed. The core measure, which excludes volatile food and energy, increased 0.1 percent after falling 0.2 percent.

Stock-index futures were little changed after the reports. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing this month rose fell than 0.1 percent to 1,426.3 at 8:54 a.m. in New York.

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from gains of 0.1 percent to 2 percent. The reading for October was unrevised.

Ten of 13 major categories showed gains last month, led by a 1.4 percent increase at auto dealers, a 2.5 percent jump at electronics outlets and a 0.9 percent gain at clothing stores.

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