U.S. retail sales tumbled in December as Americans struggled with shortages of goods and an explosion of COVID-19 infections, but that will likely not change expectations that economic growth accelerated in the fourth quarter.
Retail sales dropped 1.9% last month after rising 0.2% in November, the Commerce Department said on Friday.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales unchanged. Estimates ranged from as low as a drop of 2.0% to as high as a 0.8% increase.
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Bottlenecks in the supply chains caused by the pandemic have led to shortages of goods, including motor vehicles. That resulted in consumers starting their holiday shopping in October, which hurt retail sales in December.
The pulling forward of sales could also have impacted the so-called seasonal factor, the model that the government uses to strip out seasonal fluctuations from the data. The drag from the seasonal factor was likely in the online sales category.
Retail sales are mostly made up of goods, with services like healthcare, education and hotel accommodation making up the remaining portion of consumer spending. Restaurants and bars are the only services category in the retail sales report.
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