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United States Retail December 2017

United States: Retail sales growth eases in December

Retail sales finished the year on a strong note, growing 0.4% from the previous month in December and falling just short of market expectations of a 0.5% month-on-month increase. December’s print came in below the upwardly revised 0.9% expansion recorded in the previous month. Although December’s figure marked the lowest rate since August, it suggests sustained robustness in private consumption growth in the fourth quarter and showcases the overall health of the U.S. economy.

Strong December sales were led by a very sturdy performance in non-store retailers, a component dominated by e-commerce, which saw sales jump 1.2% month-on-month in December. Furniture stores and building materials retailers also performed above average, with monthly sales growing 0.6% and 1.2%, respectively. Vehicle sales increased modestly by 0.2% in December, whereas gasoline sales remained steady from the previous month. Meanwhile, miscellaneous store retailers logged a notable 2.9% mom dip in sales, while clothing stores and electronics and appliances stores recorded smaller sales contractions in December.

In annual terms, growth in retail sales moderated to 5.4% in December from an upwardly revised multi-year high of 6.0% recorded in the previous month. Annual average retail sales growth ticked up to 4.6% in December from 4.5% in October, marking the highest print in nearly five years.

Whereas strong sales numbers point to a marked contribution from consumers to GDP in the last quarter of the year, it also points toward potential overheating and pro-inflationary risks in the U.S. economy, which could lead to rate hikes by the Federal Reserve as early as the first quarter of 2018.

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