U.S. retail sales rise in December, capping a strong year in spending

Retail Sales Grew 0.4% in December

The National Retail Federation today announced that sales made during from November 1 to December 31 increased by 5.5% over 2016.

At J.C. Penney, meantime, even an optimistic outlook from CEO Marvin Ellison couldn't buoy the retailer's shares after investors were underwhelmed by the company's 3.4 percent gain for holiday sales. Department stores, which are a contracting retail category, saw a decline of 1.1 percent. "Consumers are still buying but where they are buying, and how they are buying is changing and will continue to evolve as price transparency increases and e-commerce and brick-and-mortar operations of retailers continue to converge into one seamless consumer experience", he said.

Electronics and appliance stores increased 6.7% unadjusted year-over-year.

U.S. retail sales rose 0.4% the final month of the year after a 0.9% increase in November, the U.S. Department of Commerce said Friday.

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U.S. Federal Reserve officials expected consumer spending will continue moderate growth in the near term, underpinned by the strength of the labor market, further improvements in household net worth, and buoyant consumer sentiment, according to minutes of Fed's policy meeting in December a year ago. The number, which excludes restaurants, automobile dealers, and gasoline stations, includes $138.4 billion in online and other nonstore sales, which rose 11.5 percent over the year before.

There were increases in every retail category except sporting goods during the holiday season, which NRF defines as November 1 through December 31. "Overall, though, these data are consistent with the very elevated consumer confidence numbers, and they imply that the saving rate, which is already very low, continues to decline", said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Not all categories of retail fared well in December. The NRF had forecast a strong season but it only anticipated sales growth of 3.6 and 4 percent.

Sales gains weren't evenly distributed in December, according to First Data's SpendTrend. It's a key gauge for the economy, which derives about two-thirds of its output from consumer spending. Apparel and accessories sales fell 0.3% from November but annual sales in the category rose 2.4% year over year in 2017, while sporting goods sales fell 1.6% from November and 0.1% year over year.

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