WASHINGTON – Spending at U.S. retailers rose in December for the fourth consecutive month, capping the strongest year for sales growth since 2014.
Retail sales–a measure of consumer spending at stores, restaurants and websites–increased a seasonally adjusted 0.4% in December from the prior month, the Commerce Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a 0.4% increase.
Retail sales had increased a revised 0.9% in November, and October sales growth also was revised higher. Sales in the fourth quarter as a whole increased 5.5% compared with the same period a year earlier.
Excluding autos, an often-volatile category, sales were up 0.4% last month; economists had expected a 0.3% gain. Excluding both autos and gasoline, sales rose 0.4% in December.
Total retail sales grew 4.2% in 2017, following annual increases of 3.2% in 2016, 2.6% in 2015 and 4.3% in 2014.
Data on retail sales can be volatile from month to month, aren’t adjusted for inflation and don’t include…