US retail sales up 1.3% in time for holidays

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US retail spending jumped 1.3 percent in November led by auto and electronics sales, government data showed Friday in a positive economic sign amid the critical holiday shopping period.

The Commerce Department report, seen as a key to renewed economic growth, was much stronger than analyst expectations for a 0.6 percent rise.

Some special factors pushed up sales, including a 6.0 percent rise in gasoline sales, a figure affected by higher prices. But electronics sales rose 2.8 percent and auto sector sales 1.6 percent.

Excluding volatile vehicle and gasoline sales, core retail spending was up 0.6 percent, a positive sign for the economy in which two-thirds of activity comes from consumer spending.

“The strength was evident across a wide range of retail segments,” said Scott Hoyt at Moody’s

The report suggests American consumers began to gain confidence at the start of the year-end holiday season, which represents a large portion of overall sales and is critical for many retailers.

“This is a strong report that may simply indicate that the sour mood consumers seem to be telling surveyors that they are in hasn’t stopped them from coming back to the malls,” said Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors.

“This report should provide some hope that households are beginning to play their part in the economic recovery. That should buoy investor confidence.”

The data also suggested the auto sector is on the mend after volatility related to the “cash for clunkers” trade-in incentives. The program ended in August and resulted in a drop in sales in September, but the market has rebounded over the past two months.

“It is a good and solid report for sales,” said Robert Brusca at FAO Economics.

General merchandise sales gained 0.8 percent and building materials increased 1.5 percent. But home furnishings and apparel sales fell 0.7 percent.

Food and beverage sales were up 1.0 percent.

The report also revised down October retail sales data, but this still showed a healthy 1.1 percent rise instead of 1.4 percent.

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