Customers browse Christmas decorations while shopping at a store in Torrance, California, U.S. (Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)

U.S. Retail Sales Jump More Than Forecast in Broad Advance

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. retail sales rose more than forecast in November and the previous month was revised higher, indicating a broad strengthening of consumer demand as the holiday shopping season got under way, according to Commerce Department figures released Thursday.

Highlights of Retail Sales (November)

  • Overall sales climbed 0.8% (est. 0.3% gain) after a 0.5% increase in prior month (revised from 0.2% rise)
  • Sales minus motor-vehicle dealers increased 1% after an upwardly revised 0.4% gain
  • So-called retail control group sales -- which are used in GDP calculations and exclude food services, auto dealers, building materials stores and gasoline stations -- also rose 0.8% following a revised 0.4% rise
  • 11 of 13 major retail categories showed gains 

Key Takeaways

The firm advance along with the October revision bodes well for consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy. Solid hiring, gains in stock prices and property values, and limited inflation are expected to sustain household demand in the final stretch of this year following two quarters of above-3 percent economic growth.

Sales in the retail control group increased at a three-month annualized pace of 6.6 percent, the most since June 2014.

Economists usually look at November-December sales together to assess performance during the holiday shopping period. Early accounts of the Thanksgiving weekend -- the traditional start to the season -- had suggested consumers were willing to spend more, though brick-and-mortar stores failed to boost customer traffic while online shopping stayed popular.

U.S. Retail Sales Jump More Than Forecast in Broad Advance

Other Details

  • Excluding automobiles and gasoline, sales jumped 0.8 percent, after a 0.4 percent gain the previous month; sales at auto and parts dealers fell 0.2 percent, reflecting cooling purchases of vehicles
  • Receipts at gasoline stations increased 2.8 percent; retail figures aren’t adjusted for price changes so higher fuel costs probably boosted result
  • Sales at electronics and appliances stores jumped 2.1 percent, the biggest gain since March; rose 2.5 percent at non-store merchants, the most since October 2016
  • Purchases at furniture outlets rose 1.2 percent
  • Receipts at restaurants increased 0.7 percent, the most since January

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