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November Retail Sales, December UI Claims

December 14, 2017
By Robert A. Dye, Ph.D., Daniel Sanabria

November Retail Sales, December UI Claims

Higher Gasoline Prices Support Strong Sales

  • Retail Sales increased by 0.8 percent in November, supported by higher gasoline prices.
  • Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance fell by 11,000 for the week ending Dec. 9 to hit 225,000.

November retail sales came in stronger than expected, expanding by 0.8 percent. Service station sales increased by 2.8 percent as gasoline prices increased. The nominal dollar value of motor vehicle sales fell by 0.2 percent as unit sales dropped to a 17.5 million unit rate in November. We expect to see further declines in unit auto sales in the coming months as the push from hurricane-related vehicle replacement fades. Ex-autos, retail sales increased by 1.0 percent in November. The strength in other retail sales categories is consistent with our expectation of an overall strong holiday shopping season.

Furniture store sales increased by 1.2 percent in November. Electronic and appliance store sales gained 2.1 percent. Building material sales were up by 1.2 percent. Clothing stores saw a 0.7 percent lift. Sporting goods stores increased sales by 0.9 percent. Nonstore retailers won the month, increasing sales by 2.5 percent, continuing to gain market share. Good labor market conditions, high consumer confidence, increasing house prices and a climbing stock market are all supportive of a strong holiday shopping season. Congressional Republicans have reached an agreement on a final tax bill. Full details are expected to be released shortly. Final approval in the House and Senate may come next week. President Trump is expected to sign the bill without delay. Amongst other compromises, the corporate tax rate was bumped up to 21 percent.

Labor metrics remain strong. Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell by 11,000, hitting 225,000 for the week ending December 9. This is just shy of the lowest initial claims number for this business cycle which was 223,000 from the week ending October 14. Continuing claims dropped by 27,000 for the week ending December 2, to hit 1,886,000, the third-lowest continuing claims number in this business cycle. 

Market Reaction: Equity markets opened with gains. The 10-year Treasury yield is up to 2.38 percent. NYMEX crude oil is up to $56.68/barrel. Natural gas futures are down to $2.69/mmbtu.

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For a PDF version of this report click here: Alert_12142017.

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