Published: Fri, January 17, 2020
Markets | By Otis Pena

NRF: Holiday retail sales up 4.1%

NRF: Holiday retail sales up 4.1%

The U.S. central bank has signaled that it could keep interest rates unchanged at least through this year after reducing borrowing costs three times in 2019.

Auto sales were up 4.1% in December's annualized comparison, with furniture and home furnishings up 3.2% on annualized basis.

Thus, the downward revision meant that sales in the control group were now 0.3% lower at an annualised rate, a "dramatic" slowdown from the 6.0% rise seen in the third quarter and the 7.9% leap seen in the second.

Macy's Inc, Kohl's Corp and J.C. Penney Co Inc are among the several retailers that have reported dismal holiday sales for 2019, while Amazon.com Inc reported a "record" holiday season without releasing any sales figures. November 2019 results got squeezed by the shift of the Sunday after Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday into December this year.

U.S. Census Bureau data - including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants - shows that overall sales were up 5.8% unadjusted year-over-year. Excluding the volatile categories of autos and gas, retail sales rose 0.5% in December, the strongest pace of growth in five months. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales would gain 0.3% in December. With services spending buoyant, real consumption growth is expected to have stayed in a healthy range of between 2 percent and 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed a "Phase 1" trade deal on Wednesday, a first step toward defusing the trade war.

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"Manufacturing will grow at a subdued pace in 2020, constrained by slower external and domestic growth as well as ongoing uncertainty on the trade policy front despite the Phase-one trade deal", said Oren Klachkin, lead USA economist at Oxford Economics in NY.

Thursday's Commerce Department report showed vehicle and truck sales fell 1.3% in December.

User spending, which accounts for bigger than two-thirds of USA financial exercise, grew at a 3.2% annualized fee in the third quarter. The nation's largest retail trade group said Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, that holiday sales increased 4.1%, near the top end of its forecast. The economy expanded at a 2.1 per cent pace in the July-September period.

The growth rate reported today is almost double the weak 2.1 percent seen during the 2018 holiday season, which was slowed by a government shutdown, stock market volatility and interest rate hikes. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

The online channel registered the biggest growth during the November-December season, with sales up 14%, followed by grocery and beverage stores, with a 2.9% increase. The retailer said comparable sales rose just 1.4% from a year earlier in the November-December period, well below 2018's 5.7% growth. Spending at hobby, musical instrument and e book stores rebounded 0.9%.

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