Implications: An OK report out of the retail sector today; not strong, not weak. Retail sales rose 0.2% in November, falling a little short of the consensus expected 0.5%. However, part of the consensus miss may be due to a late Thanksgiving, which pushed Cyber Monday to December 1. Still, overall sales are up a respectable 3.3% from a year ago and the year-ago comparison should move up substantially for December. In November, sales rose in eight of the thirteen major retail categories. Non-store retailers (think internet & mail order) and autos led the way rising 0.8% and 0.5%, respectively. Non-store sales are up 11.5% from a year ago, sit at record highs, and now make up 12.9% of overall retail sales, also a record. The largest decline in sales in November was for health and personal care stores, which dropped 1.1%. "Core" sales, which exclude autos, building materials, and gas stations (the most volatile sectors) grew 0.1% in November, are up 3.5% from a year ago, and up 7.0% annualized since the start of 2019, the fastest eleven-month pace of growth since 2006. Jobs and wages are moving up, companies and consumers continue to benefit from tax cuts, consumer balance sheets look healthy, and serious (90+ day) debt delinquencies are down substantially from post-recession highs. For these reasons, expect continued solid gains in retail sales in the year ahead. In inflation news today, import prices rose 0.2% in November, driven by an increase in fuel prices. Export prices also rose 0.2% primarily due to higher agricultural prices. In the past year, both import and export prices are down 1.3%, but we expect a turnaround to at least modest price gains in the year ahead.
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