Retail Sales Up On Holiday Bump in December

Economy Watch: Retail Sales Gain Ground in December

Nonstore Retailers were up 12.7% from December 2016, while Building Materials and Garden Equipment and Supplies Dealers were up 9.9% from a year ago.

Traders were also digesting some closely watched economic data, including a report from the Commerce Department showing retail sales rose in line with economist estimates in the month of December. This increase topped the trade group's expectations for sales excluding restaurants, automobiles and gasoline to rise 3.6% to 4%. Sporting goods stores lost 1.6 percent in sales for the month. Sales at auto dealerships increased by 0.2 percent, while sales at service stations were unchanged.

"We aren't sure who gets the credit for the strongest advance in consumer spending since 2010, but it is likely tied in part to the massive tax cuts from Washington and perhaps the Fed's easy money too-low interest rate policy for this stage of the business cycle with the economy in its ninth year of expansion from the end of the recession", said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in NY, in a note to clients Friday.

December alone was up 0.4% seasonally adjusted from November and up 4.6% unadjusted year-over-year. Still, tepid results from department stores and apparel retailers show that not every company will benefit from more shopper spending. Retails sales rose 5.4 percent in December of 2016.They advanced 4.2 percent in 2017 compared to 3.2 percent in 2016.


Department store sales were also on the weak side, edging higher by just 0.1% to $58.6bn. Nonstore retailer sales are up 12.7% year-over-year as online retailers continue to grow their market share.

Jeremy Andrus, chief executive officer at Traeger Grills, a Salt Lake City, Utah-based maker of wood pellet grills, said Traeger's fastest-selling grill shifted from an $800 model to a $1,000 model this holiday season as consumers showed a willingness to reach deeper into their pockets.

"We see a very healthy consumer, and we see a lot of signs of the strength of that consumer", Mr. Andrus said.

As a result, certain retail segments were particularly strong in December. Consumers pulled back spending at department stores last month, with sales dropping 1.1%. Non-store retailers on the other hand saw sales jump 1.2% to $55.6bn. Fluctuations in sales often reflect changes in gas prices, not volume. A gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.48 on average in December versus $2.56 in November, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Last month, sales at electronics and appliance stores fell 0.2 percent.

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