WASHINGTON, Dec 11, (Agencies): A gauge of US consumer spending rose solidly in November, suggesting enough momentum in the economy for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates next week for the first time in nearly a decade.
Other data on Friday showed producer prices increased last month as services cost more, but the underlying trend continued to point to weak inflation pressures.
Retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services increased 0.6 percent after gaining 0.2 percent in October, the Commerce Department said. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.
Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity, surprisingly slowed in September and October. The moderation came despite a tightening labor market, which has started to lift household income.
The latest signs of strength in consumption could see economists bumping up their fourth-quarter growth estimates. Solid domestic demand supports expectations that the Fed will raise its benchmark overnight interest rate from near zero when policymakers conclude a two-day meeting next Wednesday, despite weak inflation.
The US central bank has not raised rates since June 2006.
In a separate report, the Labor Department said its producer price index advanced 0.3 percent last month after falling 0.4 percent in October. But the PPI declined 1.1 percent in the 12 months through November after sliding 1.6 percent in October.
November marked the 10th straight 12-month decrease in the index. Dollar strength and continued declines in oil prices amid a glut and slowing global growth have dampened price pressures, leaving inflation running persistently below the Fed’s 2 percent target.
US Treasury debt prices slipped on the data and the dollar weakened against the euro and the yen.
Last month, overall retail sales increased only 0.2 percent as automobile sales fell and cheaper gasoline weighed on receipts at service stations. Retail sales edged up 0.1 percent in October.
Auto sales slipped 0.4 percent last month, the largest decline since June, after falling 0.3 percent in October. Though automakers reported strong sales in November, the units sold were slightly below October’s levels.
Receipts at service stations fell 0.8 percent after decreasing 1.0 percent in October.
Elsewhere, sales at clothing stores shot up 0.8 percent, the largest increase since May. Sales at online retailers rose 0.6 percent and receipts at sporting goods and hobby stores increased 0.8 percent. Sales at electronics and appliance outlets advanced 0.6 percent.
The increase last month in discretionary spending suggested a fairly busy start to the holiday shopping season. However, receipts at building materials and garden equipment stores slipped 0.3 percent as did sales at furniture stores.
“Despite a weak-ish headline, retail spending in November suggests a firm pace of consumption,” said Bricklin Dwyer, a senior economist at the bank BNP Paribas. The report should provide some relief after evidence of tepid shopping during Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving when consumers often splurge — and provide a better sense about their confidence in the broader economy. Initial figures indicated that many consumers stayed at home, potentially choosing to browse for holiday gifts online instead of wading through crowds at stores.
The National Retail Federation estimated that spending averaged $299.60 per person over Thanksgiving weekend. That was down from $381 last year. But the trade association says the figures are not comparable due to methodology changes.
But the retail sales report confirms that consumers are shifting away from malls and shopping plazas. Online sales advanced 7.3 percent from a year ago. People are also more eager to eat out, with expenditures at restaurants increasing 0.7 percent in November and 6.5 percent over the past 12 months. Americans have stepped up their purchases of cars this year, although sales at auto dealers slipped 0.6 percent last month.