Retail Sales in U.S. Probably Rose in November on Holiday Shopping, Autos

Sales at retailers probably rose in November as Americans bought more new cars and shopped for the holidays, showing growth in the U.S. is picking up heading into 2012, economists said before a report this week.

The projected 0.6 percent gain in purchases would follow a 0.5 percent advance in October, according to the median forecast of 64 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News ahead of Commerce Department figures on Dec. 13. Other data may show factories expanded production and the cost of living was little changed.

The spending record set on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, known as Black Friday, may mark the beginning of a prosperous holiday season for stores as falling joblessness and rising stocks help lift pessimism. Gains in household purchases and steady prices mean Federal Reserve policy makers meeting this week can take time to determine if more stimulus is needed.

“Before Black Friday people were holding back, then they went all out,” said Chris G. Christopher, a senior principal economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. “For the Fed, there have been some positive signs in recent months.”

Spending during the Thanksgiving weekend jumped 9.1 percent per customer from a year earlier to $398.62, according to the National Retail Federation. Holiday deals drew record crowds to Limited Brands Inc. and Macy’s Inc. (M), and November same-store sales for the more than 20 companies tracked by researcher Retail Metrics Inc. rose a combined 3.2 percent.

‘Meaningful Acceleration’

“We were positive throughout the month going into Thanksgiving and it only got better from there,” Timothy Johnson, senior vice president of finance at retailer Big Lots, said during a Dec. 2 earnings call. “We feel about as good as we can with the positive performance to begin, but also the acceleration, meaningful acceleration, we saw.”

The Standard & Poor’s Supercomposite Retailing Index has recovered from a plunge in stock values during October faster than S&P 500 Index. It was up 0.9 percent from Oct. 31 through Dec. 9, while the broader market has climbed 0.2 percent.

Car and light truck sales in the U.S. advanced in November to a 13.6 million seasonally adjusted annualized rate, the best month since August 2009, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

Excluding automobiles and service stations, the retail report may show sales increased 0.5 percent last month after rising 0.7 percent in October, economists said.

Less Unemployment

An improving employment outlook probably supported the gain in purchases. Payrolls climbed by 120,000 workers in November, and the jobless rate fell to 8.6 percent, the lowest since March 2009, from 9 percent, Labor Department figures showed Dec. 2.

As signs earlier this year indicated the economy might slow, business pulled the reins in on inventories. Now that sales are growing, manufacturers will need to boost output to replenish stockpiles.

Industrial production increased 0.2 percent last month, according to economists’ median estimate ahead of the Fed’s Dec. 15 figures. Gauges of manufacturing in the Philadelphia and New York regions may also point to expansion, economists project.

While improved production would support growth and employment has climbed, the central bank is still considering ways to bolster expansion. The Federal Open Market Committee will issue a statement after its meeting on Dec. 13 with any updated outlook.

Inflation is becoming less of an issue even as the economy picks up. The consumer-price index, the broadest of the monthly price gauges, rose 0.1 percent in November after falling 0.1 percent the prior month, according to the survey median ahead of a Labor Department report Dec. 16. The increase would prices up 3.5 percent over the past year, the same as in November.

                        Bloomberg Survey

==============================================================
                        Release    Period    Prior     Median
Indicator                 Date               Value    Forecast
==============================================================
Federal Budget $ Blns    12/12      Nov.     -150.4    -139.0
Retail Sales MOM%        12/13      Nov.      0.5%      0.6%
Retail ex-autos MOM%     12/13      Nov.      0.6%      0.4%
Retail exauto/gas MOM%   12/13      Nov.      0.7%      0.5%
Business Inv. MOM%       12/13      Oct.      0.0%      0.8%
Import Prices MOM%       12/14      Nov.     -0.6%      1.0%
Import Prices YOY%       12/14      Nov.     11.0%     10.1%
PPI  MOM%                12/15      Nov.     -0.3%      0.2%
Core PPI MOM%            12/15      Nov.      0.0%      0.2%
PPI  YOY%                12/15      Nov.      5.9%      5.9%
Core PPI YOY%            12/15      Nov.      2.8%      2.8%
Empire Manu. Index       12/15      Dec.      0.6       3.0
Initial Claims ,000’s    12/15     10-Dec     381       390
Cont. Claims ,000’s      12/15     3-Dec      3583      3630
Current Account $ Blns   12/15       3Q      -118.0    -108.7
Ind. Prod. MOM%          12/15      Nov.      0.7%      0.2%
Cap. Util. %             12/15      Nov.     77.8%     77.9%
Philly Fed Index         12/15      Dec.      3.6       5.0
CPI  MOM%                12/16      Nov.     -0.1%      0.1%
Core CPI MOM%            12/16      Nov.      0.1%      0.1%
CPI  YOY%                12/16      Nov.      3.5%      3.5%
Core CPI YOY%            12/16      Nov.      2.1%      2.1%
CPI NSA Index            12/16      Nov.    226.421   226.200
==============================================================

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Kowalski in Washington at akowalski13@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net

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