Retail sales in U.S. increase at slower pace as taxes take bite

Auto Sales

Demand for automobiles as consumers replace older cars and trucks is benefiting automakers such as Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. Ford’s deliveries surged 22% last month compared with January 2012 and General Motors sales climbed 16%, the companies reported Feb. 1.

Retail sales excluding autos increased 0.2% after rising 0.3% in December, today’s report showed. They were projected to rise 0.1%, according to the Bloomberg survey median.

Same-store sales for the more than 20 companies tracked by researcher Retail Metrics Inc. surged 4.5% in January from the same month in 2012, the biggest year-to-year gain since September 2011.

San Francisco-based Gap, the largest U.S. apparel chain, posted an 8% gain in sales, double the average estimate of 4% in a survey by Retail Metrics. Minneapolis-based Target, the second-largest U.S. discounter, posted a gain of 3.1%, above projections of 1.7%.

Growth Impact

Purchases excluding autos, gasoline and building materials, which are the figures used to calculate gross domestic product, climbed 0.1% after increases of 0.7% in each of the previous two months. The readings for December and November were revised up from prior estimates indicating consumer spending in the fourth quarter may be stronger than previously estimated.

Household purchases rose at a 2.2% annual rate from October through December, up from a 1.6% pace in the previous three months, according to figures from the Commerce Department. Today’s revisions, combined with a smaller trade deficit than previously reported, probably means the economy managed to grow at the end of last year.

The world’s largest economy shrank at a 0.1% annual rate in the fourth quarter as military spending dropped by the most since the Vietnam War era, the Commerce Department reported last month.

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