December Retail Sales and Jobless Claims Not a Pretty Picture

December retail sales fell below expectations in this advance report from the US Census Bureau, falling to -0.3 percent for all retails sales and -0.2 percent for retails sales less autos. Analysts were expecting a 0.4 percent rise for total sales and a 0.2 percent rise for sales ex autos.

On a brighter note, the data for November was revised up to show a 1.8 percent rise from 1.3 percent for total retail sales and a 1.9 percent rise from 1.2 percent for retail sales less auto.

Dec 2009 total sales exceeded Dec 2008 total sales by a healthy 5.4 percent and by 5.2 percent for sales ex auto. In category changes, gasoline sales were up about 33.6 percent and non-store retail sales were up about 10.3 percent from December 2008.

Overall, total sales for from Oct through Dec 2009 were up 1.9 percent from the same period a year ago, suggesting the economy is still struggling to recover, despite capital injections from special government programs and stimulus money.

Jobless claims data also disappointed in today’s report from the Department of Labor, showing an unexpected increase in initial claims for the week ending 1/9.

The US Census Bureau captures retail sales for retail and food services. Data is adjusted for seasonal variations, holiday, and trading-day differences, but not for price changes.

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