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By Lorraine Woellert
By Lorraine Woellert
WASHINGTON – Retail sales in the U.S. rose more than forecast in November as Americans bought cars and took advantage of discounts going into the holiday-shopping season.
Purchases climbed 0.7 percent, the most since June, after a 0.6 percent advance in October that was larger than previously reported, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 83 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.6 percent advance. Excluding cars, sales rose 0.4 percent, also more than projected.
Higher stock prices, rising home values and stronger job growth have helped buoy consumer sentiment, raising the odds that household spending will rebound this quarter from the weakest performance in almost four years. Nonetheless, companies such as Gap Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp. aren’t taking chances as they mark down merchandise to spur demand.
“The consumer is on sure footing,” Brian Jones, a senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, said before the report. “We’re probably looking at pretty solid consumption going forward.”
Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from gains of 0.2 percent to 1.2 percent. October’s reading was revised from an initially reported 0.4 percent increase.
Other reports today showed applications for unemployment insurance payments jumped last week and the costs of goods imported in the U.S. fell in November for a second month.
The number of claims for jobless benefits surged by 68,000 in the week ended Dec. 7 to 368,000, a two-month high, according to Labor Department figures. While there were no special circumstances last week, the data are difficult to adjust for seasonal swings during the holidays, a government spokesman said as the report was released to the press.
Import prices dropped 0.6 percent last month, matching the decrease in October, another Labor Department report showed. The decline was led by a 3.1 percent fall in fuel expenses that was the biggest since June 2012. Costs dropped 1.5 percent over the past 12 months.
Stock-index futures were little changed after the reports. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing this month rose less than 0.1 percent to 1,781.4 at 8:39 a.m. in New York.
Eight of 13 major merchant retailer categories showed increases last month. The gains were broad-based and included rising revenue at auto dealers, furniture stores, electronics shops and non-store retailers, including online outlets.
Sales at automobile dealers climbed 1.8 percent, the most since June, after gaining 1.1 percent in October, today’s report showed.
Industry figures this month showed auto purchases climbed to a 16.3 million annualized rate in November, the highest since May 2007, according to data from Ward’s Automotive Group. November deliveries rose 16 percent for Chrysler Group LLC from the same month last year, 14 percent for General Motors Co. and more than 10 percent for Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co.