US retail sales post surprise increase | Shanghai Daily

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December 12, 2009

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US retail sales post surprise increase

RETAIL sales in the United States rose more than expected in November, boosting hopes that the all-important consumer sector will support the fragile recovery.

The US government's report came as a surprise because the nation's retailers have been reporting generally lackluster results for the start of the holiday shopping season and consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of overall economic activity.

But retail sales rose 1.3 percent last month, after a 1.1-percent October gain, the US Commerce Department said yesterday. It was the biggest rise since sales gained 2.4 percent in August, and more than double the 0.6-percent hike economists had expected.

Excluding autos, retail sales rose 1.2 percent, triple the 0.4-percent gain economists expected.

A 6-percent surge in sales at service stations, partly reflecting higher gasoline prices, led the overall gain. But even excluding that jump, retail sales posted a respectable 0.8-percent rise in November.

Economists' general view has been that double-digit jobless levels would keep consumers cautious in their spending and act as a drag on the economy as it struggles to emerge from the worst recession since the 1930s.

The November retail sales report showed that auto sales rose 1.6 percent, a solid performance after a 7.1-percent surge in October.

Sales at department stores gained 0.7 percent, and the broader category that includes big retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Target Corp posted a 0.8-percent rise.

Sales also jumped 2.8 percent at electronics and appliance stores, and 1.5 percent at hardware stores.

Sales fell 0.7 percent at furniture stores, something of a surprise since analysts had expected the recent rebound in home sales to bolster demand for furniture.

After posting two straight gains following more than a year of declines, big chain retail stores earlier this month reported a decline in November sales.




 

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