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December 14, 2016 9:00 AM, EST

Retail Sales in US Increased Less Than Forecast in November

Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg News

Sales at U.S. retailers rose less than forecast in November, representing a pause in spending after robust gains in the previous two months.

The 0.1% advance followed a revised 0.6% increase in the prior month that was smaller than initially reported, Commerce Department data showed Dec. 14. The median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey called for a 0.3% gain.

The figures interrupt a trend of solid spending by consumers, who remain a mainstay of the economy in the wake of 2 million hires this year and gradual wage gains. Recent data showing Americans more upbeat about their finances than at any time in 11 years and prevalent discounting may also benefit retailers this holiday-shopping season.

“The fundamentals of the household sector are still in pretty good shape,” said Scott Brown, chief economist for Raymond James Financial Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida. “The anecdotal information suggests that consumers are out there spending, even though they’re very much looking for discounts, that’s been a long-term story.”

The data are unlikely to ruffle Federal Reserve policymakers who are widely expected to raise interest rates later on Dec. 14 for the first time in a year. Purchases increased 5.3% from a year earlier on an unadjusted basis, the biggest 12-month gain since February.

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey for month-over-month sales ranged from increases of 0.1% to 0.6% after a previously reported 0.8% October advance.

Nine of 13 major retail categories showed gains in November, led by restaurants and furniture stores, the Commerce Department report showed.

Retail sales excluding automobiles and service stations increased 0.2%, less than the projected gain of 0.4% in the Bloomberg survey and following a revised 0.5% advance the previous month.

Automobile dealers’ sales dropped 0.5%, the biggest decrease since March and erasing the prior month’s increase.

The figures used to calculate gross domestic product, which exclude categories such as food services, auto dealers, home-improvement stores and service stations, rose 0.1%. The increase in the so-called retail control group was the smallest in three months and followed a 0.6% October gain that was less than initially reported.

Receipts at gasoline stations rose 0.3% from a month earlier. The Commerce Department’s retail sales data aren’t adjusted for prices.

Purchases at furniture outlets climbed 0.7% after a 0.5% decrease the previous month.