Latest data on U.S. retail sales has both retailers and the Fed breathing easier. Jeanne Yurman reports.
The latest retail sales data has retailers breathing a bit easier. After three months of tepid spending, the Commerce Department shows consumer activity picking up in November. While the headline number rose just two-tenths a percent, stripping out autos, gas, building materials and food services, spending grew .6 from the prior month. A heartening data point given that holiday shopping represents a fifth or more of retailers' annual sales. The report, no surprise to Tom McGee, CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers. SOUNDBITE: THOMAS MCGEE, CEO, INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL SHOPPING CENTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "When we look at the holiday sales, we expect a very strong holiday season. Our expectation is for holiday sales to be 3 a 3.3 percent increase year-over-year from last year and all indications are that we're going to meet or exceed that expectation." Consumer spending accounts for more than two thirds of U.S. economic activity. Until now, it seemed Americans were squirreling away not spending money saved at the pump and gained through a slowly improving jobs market. So, it's not just retailers, but the data is also reassuring for the Federal Reserve, which is looking for signs of economic health ahead of what may be the first interest rate hike in a decade next week.