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Retailers outpace expectations in December

Jan 23, 2013 Philip Burgess

Consumer credit reports have yielded positive signs for retailers in recent months, and the trend continued in December.

After retail sales grew 0.4 percent in November, a Bloomberg survey of 83 economists reported a marginally positive sentiment about the final month of 2012, projecting a 0.2 percent increase from November to December. But recent statistics by the Commerce Departments found that retailers fared even better than expected, according to Bloomberg News.

"Consumers continue to spend at a decent pace," Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial, told the news source. "We need faster job and income growth to allow the consumer to shift into higher gear."

Retail sales grew 0.5 percent between November and December, while 2012 reported a 5.2 percent year-over-year increase. The auto industry also continued its ascension back toward pre-recession numbers. Motor vehicle and parts dealers, for instance, saw a 2.7 percent increase from November to December.

"Both the economy and the industry have a bit underlying momentum that we expect to continue," said Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, according to Bloomberg.

However, the automotive sector is far from the only industry thriving. When excluding auto sales, retailers achieved a 0.3 percent increase during that time period, after dipping slightly between October and November. Clothing and department stores reported good numbers in December, jumping 1 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, while bars and restaurant revenue increased 1.2 percent.

Meanwhile, an earlier consumer credit report by the Federal Reserve revealed that Americans took on $16 billion more in debt in November, marking the fourth consecutive month of consumer credit. Non-revolving debt, the sector that accounts for student and auto loans, grew $15.2 billion.

The $16 billion increase in consumer debt also outpaced an earlier Bloomberg forecast, which projected a $12.8 billion increase from October to November.