Retail Sales Rise 0.7 Percent, Most In 5 Months

The Associated Press

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U.S. consumers ramped up spending in November on cars, appliances and furniture and made more purchases online, signaling growing confidence in the economy at the start of the holiday shopping season.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales rose 0.7 percent, the biggest gain in five months. October's figure was also revised higher to 0.6 percent.

Two straight months of healthy sales suggest steady hiring is encouraging Americans to spend more this holiday season, particularly on big-ticket items. That could give a critical boost to the economic growth.

Thursday's report "suggests that the holiday shopping season began on a strong note," Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients.

The report also shows that consumers purchased more at home on their computers last month—and less at traditional stores. Those trends could explain why many retail chains estimated disappointing sales over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, one of the most critical for those businesses.

Auto sales jumped 1.8 percent, furniture purchases rose 1.2 percent and sales at electronics and appliances stores rose 1.1 percent. Excluding the volatile categories of autos, gas and building materials, sales rose a solid 0.5 percent in November.

Americans also are shifting more spending to online and catalog retailers. Online and catalog sales rose 2.2 percent last month, the most in nearly 18 months.

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