WASHINGTON Dec 14 U.S. retail sales barely rose
in November as households cut back on purchases of motor
vehicles, suggesting some loss of momentum in economic growth in
the fourth quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday retail sales
edged up 0.1 percent after two straight months of strong gains.
October retail sales were revised downward to show a 0.6 percent
increase instead of the previously reported 0.8 percent rise.
Sales were up 3.8 percent from a year ago. Excluding
automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services,
retail sales also nudged up 0.1 percent last month after a
downwardly revised 0.6 percent increase in October.
These so-called core retail sales, which correspond most
closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic
product, were previously reported to have advanced 0.8 percent
Economists had forecast overall retail sales increasing 0.3
percent and core sales also gaining 0.3 percent last month.
The softer-than-expected retail sales numbers last month
suggest some cooling in consumer spending in the fourth quarter
after solid gains in the July-September period. Still, consumers
should continue to support economic growth in the fourth
Data on the labor market, manufacturing and housing have
offered a fairly upbeat view of the economy early in the fourth
quarter. That, together with signs that inflation is perking up,
are expected to encourage the Federal Reserve to raise interest
rates later on Wednesday.
The U.S. central bank hiked its overnight benchmark interest
rate last December for the first time in nearly a decade.
The Atlanta Fed is forecasting gross domestic product rising
at a 2.6 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter. The
economy grew at a 3.2 percent pace in the third quarter.
Last month, auto sales fell 0.5 percent, the largest decline
since March, after increasing 0.5 percent in October. Sales at
building material stores rose 0.3 percent.
Receipts at clothing stores were flat, suggesting a weak
start to the holiday shopping season. Department stores like
Macy's and Kohl's are facing intense competition
from online retailers such as Amazon, which have
snatched a large chunk of the market share.
Sales at online retailers gained 0.1 percent last month
after surging 1.4 percent in October. Receipts at restaurants
and bars increased 0.8 percent, while sales at sporting goods
and hobby stores fell 1.0 percent.
Receipts at service stations gained 0.3 percent after
jumping 2.5 percent in October. That reflected falling gasoline
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)