Make us your home page
Instagram

Retail sales rise in January

WASHINGTON — Americans rebounded from a weak holiday season and stepped up spending on retail goods in January. The latest government report on retail sales pointed to a slowly improving economy.

Retail sales rose at a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

Consumers spent more on electronics, home and garden supplies, and sporting goods at department and general merchandise stores, and at restaurants and bars. They also paid higher prices for gas.

Spending on autos fell in January, the report showed, even though automakers had previously reported higher sales last month. That could mean that dealers offered more discounts to attract buyers.

The January retail sales figures were an improvement from December, which were downwardly revised to show a flat reading. And excluding autos, building materials and gasoline station sales, core retail spending jumped 0.7 percent.

The "retail sales data are better than they look, but they don't suggest that consumption growth is about to set the economic recovery alight," Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

Economists had expressed concerns that consumers might pull back on spending this year because their wages hadn't kept pace with inflation, and many consumers relied on savings to make up the difference.

The retail sales report shows consumers are managing to increase spending at the same pace they did late last year, despite only small gains in pay.

"The good news is that the strong January gain establishes that the consumer trend is not folding," said Pierre Ellis, an economist at Decision Economics.

Retail sales have risen about 21 percent since hitting a recession low. And they're nearly 6 percent above their prerecession high.

January sales might have been stronger if auto sales hadn't dropped 1.1 percent. That was a surprise after most dealers reported sales increases last month.

Sales at gasoline stations rose 1.4 percent last month, the most in 10 months. Gas prices have risen steadily in recent months. The average price for a gallon of gas was $3.51 on Tuesday, up 12 cents from a month earlier.

One encouraging sign: Consumers spent much more at general merchandise stores, a category that includes big chains such as Walmart and Target, and at department stores such as Macy's. Sales at those stores jumped 2 percent, after declining 0.7 percent in December.

And Americans are spending more at restaurants and bars, which reported a 0.6 percent increase in sales.

Sales at online and catalog retailers fell 1.1 percent, the most in almost two years. Shoppers likely pulled back after the holiday shopping season.

Stockpiles grow

Businesses restocked at a faster pace in December, a positive sign that they expect consumer demand to rise. The Commerce Department says business stockpiles grew 0.4 percent in December, after a 0.3 percent rise in the previous month. Sales rose 0.7 percent after a 0.4 percent gain in November. Companies are building up their stockpiles again after cutting them over the summer amid recession fears. Higher inventories require more production, which boosts economic growth. It also suggests companies expect more sales.

Retail sales rise in January 02/14/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 7:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks

    Business

    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday

    Business

    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes

    Transportation

    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at the DOT’s Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Avenue.