retail sales end 2015 with a whimper
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[January 15, 2016]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. retail
sales unexpectedly fell in December as unseasonably warm weather
undercut sales of winter apparel and cheaper gasoline weighed on
receipts at service stations, adding to signs that economic growth
braked sharply in the fourth quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Friday retail sales slipped 0.1
percent after an upwardly revised 0.4 percent gain in November.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales unchanged
after a previously reported 0.2 percent rise in November. For all of
2015, retail sales rose 2.1 percent, the weakest reading since 2009,
after rising 3.9 percent in 2014.
Retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and
food services fell 0.3 percent after a downwardly revised 0.5
percent rise the prior month. These so-called core retail sales
correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of
gross domestic product.
Core retail sales previously were reported to have advanced 0.6
percent in November. Economists had forecast them rising 0.3 percent
The mixed retail sales report joins weak data on construction,
manufacturing and export growth in suggesting that economic activity
cooled significantly in the final three months of last year.
It could raise concerns that the manufacturing and export-oriented
sector malaise was filtering to other parts of the economy.
Manufacturing has been bruised by a strong dollar and sluggish
global demand. Business efforts to cut an inventory overhang and
energy sector spending cuts have also been a drag.
The core retail sales drop last month and the downward revision to
the November figure could prompt economists to lower their
fourth-quarter GDP estimates, which currently range between a 0.5
percent and a 1.4 percent annual rate. The economy grew at a 2
percent pace in the third quarter.
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Auto sales were unchanged after rising the prior month. Receipts at
service stations fell 1.1 percent after decreasing 1.3 percent in
Sales at clothing stores dropped 0.9 percent as unusually warm
weather hurt sales of winter apparel. Sales at online retailers
edged up 0.3 percent and receipts at sporting goods and hobby stores
rose 0.9 percent.
Sales at electronics and appliance outlets fell 0.2 percent.
Receipts at building materials and garden equipment stores
rose 0.7 percent likely boosted by warm temperatures. Furniture
store sales gained 0.9 percent.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
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