Retail sales whiff at the start of the crucial holiday shopping season

Retail sales increased by less than expected in November, the start of holiday shopping season.

Sales rose by 0.1% month-on-month (0.3% expected), according to an advance release from the Department of Commerce on Wednesday.

The headline was dragged by lower sales of cars and sporting gear. Stores that sell a range of items from office supplies to flowers — so-called miscellaneous store retailers — also recorded a drop from October. Restaurants and bars had a strong month.

Excluding autos and gas, which tend to be volatile, core retail sales rose by 0.2% (0.4% forecast). The gains in October, which were originally reported at a two-year high, were revised down.

This report captures Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping, and so it provides the first snapshot into consumer spending during the crucial holiday season. Spending makes up two-thirds of all US economic activity.

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