U.S. Retail Sales Up 0.9%

Auto sales rose 0.3%.

Consumers opened their wallets for holiday shopping despite weakness in other segments of the economy and pushed U. S. retail sales up 0.9% in December. The gain was stronger than the 0.7% increase expected by Wall Street analysts.

The Commerce Department report showed on Jan. 12 that sales were up 1% when excluding volatile automobile sales. That was better than the average analyst forecast of 0.5%.

"It appears that households had a merry holiday spending money, despite what the retailers may have been claiming," said Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors. "As expected, electronics led the way. But demand for furniture, clothing, healthcare products and general merchandise was robust as well. Even vehicle sales were decent."

The rise last month was led by a 3.8% increase in sales at gasoline stations, following a 2.9% increase in the prior month. Sales at electronics and appliance stores rose 3% in the month after rising a healthy 5.8% in November. Auto sales rose 0.3% in December after remaining unchanged in the prior month.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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