Published: Sat, January 14, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Cars, Gasoline Lifted US Retail Sales 0.6% in December

Cars, Gasoline Lifted US Retail Sales 0.6% in December

Retail sales rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent, following a small 0.2 percent gain in November, the Commerce Department said Friday.

Excluding auto sales, retail sales inched up by 0.2 percent in December after rising by 0.3 percent in November. A number of department store retailers like Macy's Inc. and Kohl's Corp. have issued profit warnings for the holiday season.

Keep an eye on Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT) after the general merchandise store category surprised with declines of 0.5% M/M and 2.8% Y/Y in December. According to Commerce Department data released Friday, sales in those stores sank 7.6 percent year over year for October through December. The result was a tenth of a percentage point below an analyst consensus forecast.

Total retail sales for the month were up 4.3 percent from the same time a year ago, the U.S. Census Bureau reported.

The increase in retail sales was partly due to a substantial rebound in auto sales, with sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers surging up by 2.4 percent in December after dipping by 0.2 percent in November.

Rising wages due to a tightening labor market are expected to support consumer spending this year, providing a boost to the economy. "And while there might have been some bumps in the road for individual companies, the retail industry overall had a solid holiday season and retailers will work to sustain this in the year ahead".

Compared with past year, health and personal care stores was a winning category, with sales up 6.2 percent, and up 0.3 percent for the month. For all of 2016, sales rose 3.3 percent, topping the 2.3 percent growth of a year earlier.

Another common theme running through this year's holiday shopping analysis is the value of an omnichannel approach - having both an online and physical store with multiple ways for customers to shop. Non-store sales were up 12.6% from 2015.

Excluding the more volatile categories of food and fuel, prices rose only 0.2 percent.

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