US retail sales rose in December past year for four months running driven by strong holiday sales.
Overall December sales - including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants - were up 5.5 percent from December 2016. Gasoline station sales are up 12.5% since December 2016. "Consumers are still buying but where they are buying, and how they are buying is changing and will continue to evolve as price transparency increases and e-commerce and brick-and-mortar operations of retailers continue to converge into one seamless consumer experience", he said. Sales at nonstore retailers grew 1.2% following November's 4.2% increase.
"The improving labor market, robust consumer confidence and the imminent boost to disposable incomes from the recently-enacted tax cuts suggest that spending will continue to grow at a healthy pace over the first half of this year", said Andrew Hunter, an economist at Capital Economics.
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Furniture and home furnishings stores jumped 7.5 percent. Core prices had been expected to rise by 0.2 percent. Clothing and accessories managed a 2.4% increase. While the French CAC 40 Index has risen by 0.4 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index are both up by 0.3 percent.
Macy's reported 1.1 percent growth in same-store sales during that period, led by increased demand for active apparel, shoes, dresses and coats.
Retail stocks are up, some over 3%, on solid numbers from the National Retail Federation.
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"We knew going in that retailers were going to have a good holiday season but the results are even better than anything we could have hoped for, especially given the misleading headlines of the past year", NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said.
"When that got passed and companies started to announce bonuses and wage increases, the consumer felt very much more at ease going into the holiday season and spending", Kleinhenz said in an interview, adding the possible tax cuts had not been accounted for in the NRF's forecast.
With the optimistic outlook for consumer spending, Fed officials expected the US economy to grow 2.5 percent this year, an upgrade of 2.1 percent from their forecasts in September last year. Among the top 30 cities, Philadelphia ranked No. 12 in terms of total dollars spent in November and December. Consumer spending, which makes up for over two-thirds of USA economic activity, increased at a 2.2 percent annualized rate for the third quarter.
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"Any time you have a season like this, it can't be bad for retailers", said Glenn Fodor, First Data's head of information and analytics solutions.