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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Up
by Tom Moeller December 13, 2004

US retail sales rose 0.1% in November versus expectations for a 0.1% decline and October sales were revised higher. In both months, total sales were held back by lower motor vehicle purchases which fell 1.3% in November for the third decline in the last four months.

Sales excluding motor vehicles rose 0.5% following an upwardly revised 1.1% jump in October. Consensus expectations had been for a 0.3% rise. Little of the surprise reflected higher gasoline prices which raised sales at gasoline service stations by 1.0% (24.0% y/y) after a 5.3% spike in October. Nonauto retail sales less gasoline also rose 0.5% (7.0% y/y). Gas prices this month look to be down roughly 5% from last.

Building materials, garden equipment & supply dealers' sales rose 1.1% (12.8% y/y) following an upwardly revised no change in October. Less sales of building materials, nonauto retail sales rose 8.1% during the past year.

Moderate gains were logged in the discretionary spending categories. Sales at general merchandise stores rose 0.4% (6.7% y/y) following an unrevised 0.9% October increase. Sales of furniture/home furnishings & electronics/appliances rose 0.5% (4.6% y/y) after an upwardly revised 0.3% rise the month earlier but clothing & accessory store sales slipped 0.1% (5.0% y/y) following the downwardly revised 2.4% October surge.

  Nov Oct Y/Y 2003 2002 2001
Retail Sales & Food Services 0.1% 0.8% 7.2% 5.3% 2.5% 3.1%
  Excluding Autos 0.5% 1.1% 8.6% 5.2% 3.2% 3.1%
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