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Retail Sales: Solid Gains, Especially Online Holiday Shopping in December

January 13, 2017
Bottom Line: Total retail spending rose in December, mostly inline with expectations after a slight upward revision to November data. Core retail sales increased and were led by gains at nonstore (internet) retailers. The Q4 average for core sales ex gasoline stations and ex building materials is modestly above its Q3 level, suggesting that real consumer spending accelerated from its 2.1% Q3 pace. This key component for GDP forecasting was up 3.3% in 2016, 2.9% in 2015 and 4.2% in 2014, continuing a trend of volatile but modest growth.

Retail Sales ROSE by 0.6% in December, compared with the market consensus for an increase of 0.7%. The November estimate was revised from 0.1% to 0.2%. Retail sales are now 4.1% ABOVE their year ago level; just a year ago, the year over year growth rate was 2.9%. Spending at motor vehicle dealers climbed by 2.4%.

Core Retail Sales ROSE by 0.2%, compared with the market consensus for an increase 0.4%. The November estimate was revised from 0.2% to 0.3%. Core retail sales are now 3.4% ABOVE their year ago level; just a year ago, the year over year growth rate was 2.1%.

In December, gains at gasoline stations, primarily due to high gasoline prices (+2.0%), nonstore retailers (+1.3%), building materials (+0.5%), health and personal care (+0.3%). were partially offset by declines in general merchandise stores (-0.5%), grocery stores (-0.3%), miscellaneous retailers (-1.0%), electronic and appliance stores (-0.5%).

Core Retail Sales ex Gasoline were UNCHANGED and are now 3.1% ABOVE their year ago level; just a year ago, the year over year growth rate was a moderate 4.2%