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Retail sales increased less than forecast in November

🕐 2 min read

Sales at U.S. retailers rose less than forecast in November, representing a pause in spending after robust gains in the previous two months.

The 0.1 percent advance followed a revised 0.6 percent increase in the prior month that was smaller than initially reported, Commerce Department data showed Wednesday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a 0.3 percent gain.

The figures interrupt a trend of solid spending by consumers, who remain a mainstay of the economy in the wake of 2 million hires this year and gradual wage gains. Recent data showing Americans more upbeat about their finances than at any time in 11 years and prevalent discounting may also benefit retailers this holiday-shopping season.

“The fundamentals of the household sector are still in pretty good shape,” said Scott Brown, chief economist for Raymond James Financial Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida. “The anecdotal information suggests that consumers are out there spending, even though they’re very much looking for discounts, that’s been a long-term story.”

The data are unlikely to ruffle Federal Reserve policy makers who are widely expected to raise interest rates later on Wednesday for the first time in a year. Purchases increased 5.3 percent from a year earlier on an unadjusted basis, the biggest 12-month gain since February.

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey for month-over-month sales ranged from increases of 0.1 percent to 0.6 percent after a previously reported 0.8 percent October advance.

Nine of 13 major retail categories showed gains in November, led by restaurants and furniture stores, the Commerce Department report showed.

Retail sales excluding automobiles and service stations increased 0.2 percent, less than the projected gain of 0.4 percent in the Bloomberg survey and following a revised 0.5 percent advance the previous month.

Automobile dealers’ sales dropped 0.5 percent, the biggest decrease since March and erasing the prior month’s increase.

The figures used to calculate gross domestic product, which exclude categories such as food services, auto dealers, home-improvement stores and service stations, rose 0.1 percent. The increase in the so-called retail control group was the smallest in three months and followed a 0.6 percent October gain that was less than initially reported.

Receipts at gasoline stations rose 0.3 percent from a month earlier. The Commerce Department’s retail sales data aren’t adjusted for prices.

Purchases at furniture outlets climbed 0.7 percent after a 0.5 percent decrease the previous month.

–With assistance from Kristy Scheuble

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