Economists were looking for retail sales to post four-tenths of a percent growth from October to November. They did not. Adjusted for seasonal variation but not for inflation, U.S. retail sales in November totaled $353.9 billion, three-tenths of a percent higher than in October, the U.S. Commerce Department reported on Dec. 13. Retail store sales were up just two-tenths of a percent; gasoline station sales were down 5.9%; and sales by building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were up 1.9% in November.
"Gift cards will be something to watch for this holiday season given their increasing popularity, a trend many retail analysts expect to continue this year," Merrill Lynch & Co. said in advance of the latest retail sales report. "But gift cards are not counted as sales until redeemed (which usually happens in January)-in other words, the rising gift-card phenomenon could slightly depress the November and December [retail sales] tallies."