Furthermore, said Shepherdson, the 0.2% drop in non-store sales was conspicuously weak given that the Sundays after Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday both fell in December, so upwards revisions would not come as a surprise. The government's first estimate of fourth-quarter growth will offer a fuller picture of USA consumption in data due January 30.
Americans also spent extra at restaurants and bars, with sales rising 0.2% closing month.
According to the Census Bureau, total sales in December (including vehicle dealers, gas stations, and restaurants) increased seasonally adjusted by 0.3% compared to November and by 5.8% unadjusted compared to the previous year.
"The December gain provides a solid handoff to retail sales at the start of 2020". Online sales were up 19.2 percent. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales would gain 0.3 per cent in December. In contrast to December closing one year, retail sales accelerated 5.8%. For 2019, many retailers have entered the "revenue confessional booth" with very disappointing sales data from December.
Thus, the downward revision meant that sales in the control group were now 0.3% lower at an annualised rate, a "dramatic" slowdown from the 6.0% rise seen in the third quarter and the 7.9% leap seen in the second. That should help sustain consumer spending and probably keep the longest economic expansion on record, now in its 11th year, on track.
Meanwhile, sales excluding automobiles (core retail sales) rose by 0.7% during the reported month as against 0.5% expected and the previous month's downwardly reading of 0.1% (0.1% growth reported earlier).
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December's results follow November's decline of 0.1 percent month-over-month and an increase of 1.3 percent year-over-year.
The U.S. retail group said holiday sales, excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, rose to $730.2 billion, largely above the midpoint of its forecast of 3.8% to 4.2% growth, and up from a modest 2.1% growth past year.
Overall sales rose in December despite retailers such as Target Corp, Kohl's, J.C. Penney and Macy's reporting a decline in sales for the holiday period as foot traffic in malls dropped. The growth is almost double the 2.1% growth seen during the holiday 2018 period, which was hurt by a government shutdown, stock market volatility and interest rate hikes. The economy expanded at a 2.1 per cent pace in the July-September period.
Gas station sales jumped 2.8% in December, but the gasoline and other retail sales figures are not adjusted for price changes. At apparel stores, purchases increased the most since March, and sales at building-materials outlets posted the best advance since August.
Sales at electronics and appliance stores rebounded 0.6% in December.
Total sales for the 12 months of 2019 were up 3.6% from 2018.