Retail sales in U.S. climbed more than forecast in December

Auto Sales

Auto purchases fell to a 15.3 million annualized rate from a 16.3 million pace in November, according to data from Ward’s Automotive Group. Last month was the coldest December since 2009 and snowfall was 21% above normal, according to weather- data provider Planalytics Inc.

Bad weather on the East Coast and Midwest last month slowed sales gains at General Motors Co. for the year. All of the biggest automakers in the U.S. missed analysts’ estimates, with GM’s deliveries dropping 6.3% in December from a year earlier.

“Weather certainly had an impact as the storms blew through the Midwest, which is typically a stronghold for us, and then off into the Northeast,” Kurt McNeil, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales operation, said on a Jan. 3 sales call. “That definitely had an impact, no question.”

Still, automakers completed their best sales year since 2007 and are upbeat about the year ahead. Dearborn, Michigan- based Ford Motor Co., the second-largest U.S. automaker, plans to add 5,000 jobs in the U.S. as it introduces 16 new vehicles in North America this year.

Excluding Autos

Purchases excluding auto dealers climbed 0.7% in December, the biggest gain since February, today’s report showed. In addition to food stores, other retailers showing increased demand included clothing stores, restaurants and pharmacies.

Sales excluding merchants such as food services, car dealers, hardware stores and service stations -- which are the figures used to calculate gross domestic product -- increased 0.7% in December, the biggest jump since July 2012, after posting a revised 0.2% gain the prior month that was smaller than previously estimated.

While last month’s reading beat the 0.3% median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg, downward revisions for the prior two months mean analysts probably won’t significantly change estimates for fourth-quarter consumer spending after today’s report.

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