Holiday Season Retail Sales Weaker Than Expected
Disappointing December retail sales interrupted what had been a steady stream of cheery economic news, with a report today showing a 0.9% decline for the month compared to November. The figure dramatically outpaced economists' predictions of a 0.1% downtick and countered conventional wisdom about plunging gas prices and a strengthened job market lifting consumer spending.
November's 0.4% gain was also smaller than expected, according to the Commerce Department's report. The stark decline in oil prices did play a role in the fall as Americans spent less money refueling their cars. But retail numbers slipped 0.3% even after excluding that downturn. Analysts summed up the report by saying that continued consumer caution made for an "OK...but not great" holiday season.