December Retail Sales Disappoint

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The Census Bureau reported that U.S. retail sales dipped 0.3 percent in December, well short of analysts estimates of a 0.4 percent improvement, however, the gain in November was revised upward, from +1.3 percent to +1.8 percent, an indication that the rebound in consumer spending is progressing in fits and starts.
IMAGE The December decline was paced by a 2.6 percent drop in sales at electronics and appliance stores, likely related to early holiday shopping since that category rose 2.8 percent the month prior, and motor vehicle sales fell 0.9 percent during the last month of the year after an increase of 1.5 percent in November.

On a year-over-year basis, overall retail sales rose 5.4 percent in a measure that is more indicative of how low December 2008 sales were than how high they were a year later. Retail sales fell sharply again in the spring of 2009 and this will again make for some very favorable year-ago comparisons in a few months.