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U.S. Retail Sales Growth Limited By Drop In Gas Station Sales

U.S. Retail Sales Growth Limited By Drop In Gas Station Sales
12/13/2012 9:23 AM ET

Retail sales in the U.S. rose by less than expected in the month of November, according to a report released by the Commerce Department on Thursday, with a sharp drop in sales by gas stations partly offsetting strength in other sectors.

The Commerce Department said retail sales increased by 0.3 percent in November following a 0.3 percent decrease in October. Economists had been expecting retail sales to increase by about 0.6 percent.

The report showed notable increases in sales by non-store retailers, electronics and appliance stores and building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers.

However, the sales growth was partly offset by a 4.0 percent drop in sales by gas stations, which largely reflected lower gasoline prices.

Excluding the decrease in sales by gas stations, retail sales rose by 0.8 percent in November compared to a 0.5 percent drop in October.

The report also showed that sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers rose by 1.4 percent in November after tumbling by 1.9 percent in the previous month.

Paul Dales, Senior U.S. Economist at Capital Economics, noted that the rebound by auto sales may have been due to the replacement of vehicles damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

Excluding the increase in auto sales, retail sales were unchanged for the second consecutive month, matching economist estimates.

Underlying sales, which exclude autos, gasoline, and building materials, rose by 0.5 percent in November after coming in flat in October.

"This indicates that some of the spending that Sandy prevented in October just took place in November instead," Dales said. "Underlying spending may have also received a one-off boost from the release of the new Nintendo Wii U."

"Given that the level of sales is no higher than in September, the catch up after Sandy may boost sales in December too," he added. "But the bottom line is that annualized consumption growth in the fourth quarter will struggle to beat the third quarter's 1.4%."

The Commerce Department said retail sales increased at an annual rate of 3.7 percent in November, unchanged from the year-over-year growth seen in October.

by RTT Staff Writer

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