United States: Retail sales finish 2019 on strong note
Nominal retail sales increased 0.3% month-on-month in seasonally-adjusted terms in December, matching November’s revised uptick (previously reported: +0.2% month-on-month) and market expectations. Retail sales excluding cars, gasoline, building materials and food services—also known as core retail sales as they most closely reflect private consumption in the GDP readings—grew a robust 0.5% month-on-month in December, contrasting November’s 0.1% decline. Despite the strong outturn in December—largely linked to the holiday shopping season—downward revisions to core retail data for October and November, suggests consumer spending was broadly steady in the fourth quarter from the third.
December’s solid result was driven by robust sales at electronics and appliances; building material and garden supplies dealers; clothing and accessories; sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument and book retailers. Sales at general merchandise stores and health and personal care stores also posted solid gains. Moreover, gasoline station sales jumped in the month. On the downside, motor vehicle and parts dealer sales shrank sharply, contrasting strong growth in November.
In annual terms, retail sales growth jumped 5.8% in December, up from 3.3% in November and hitting an over one-year high. Overall, annual average retail sales growth came in at 3.6% in 2019, easing from 2018’s 4.8% result.