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Economy in Brief

U.S. Retail Sales Firm At Yearend Led By Electronics
by Tom Moeller January 12, 2007

US retail sales in December rose 0.9% though the sales gain during the prior month was lowered to 0.6% from 1.0% reported initially. The latest increase again easily beat Consensus expectations for a 0.6% rise.

Excluding autos, retail sales jumped a larger 1.0% last month, though the November gain was lowered to a still firm 0.7% from 1.1%. Sales by motor vehicle & parts dealers rose 0.3% (3.6% y/y) after a downwardly revised slight decline in November, as new unit vehicle sales did rise 4.4% in December.

Sales at gasoline service stations jumped 3.8% reflecting the 3.7% recovery in gasoline prices to $2.31 per gallon.

Nonauto retail sales less gasoline in November jumped 0.7% (6.2% y/y) though the November gain was revised lower to 0.5% from 0.9% reported initially. During the fourth quarter these sales rose at a 3.7% annual rate, the versus 4.2% during 3Q.

Sales of discretionary items were generally firm last month. Sales at furniture, home furnishings & appliance stores jumped 1.8% (11.1% y/y) after an upwardly revised 2.8% November spike. Sales at electronics & appliance stores surged 3.0% (15.0% y/y) after a 5.8% November surge. Apparel store sales gained 0.6% (5.5% y/y) after two months of decline and general merchandise store sales rose 0.9% (5.4% y/y).

Building material sales fell 1.1% (-0.8% y/y), the eighth decline in the last nine months. Sales of nonstore retailers (internet & catalogue) rose a modest 0.3% (7.9% y/y) but restaurant and bar sales jumped 2.3% (9.3% y/y).

  December November Y/Y 2006 2005 2004
Retail Sales & Food Services 0.9% 0.6% 5.4% 6.3% 7.2% 6.2%
  Excluding Autos 1.0% 0.7% 5.8% 7.5% 8.3% 7.2%
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