Retail Has its Worst Year Since 2009

U.S. retail sales fell in December, marking 2015 as its worst year since 2009 and calling into question the momentum of consumer spending in 2016.

Retail sales saw a 0.1% decline in December, which was in line with economist estimates. The drop in sales follows a 0.4% gain in November, according to new figures released by the Commerce Department on Friday. In 2015, purchases increased just 2.1%.

A slowdown in sales indicates that Americans were likely socking away their savings from cheaper gas, rather than splurging on the holidays. Despite a tightening labor market in recent months, wage gains remain stagnant, which likely also had an effect on consumer spending.

Retail sales growth for 2015 follows a 3.9% gain in 2014, and was the smallest advance since 2009 when demand fell 7.4%.

In a separate report from the Labor Department, inflation remained at wholesale level, and the producer price index dropped to 0.2% in the month of December from the previous month.

In the retail sales report, six of the 13 major categories declined in December compared to the prior month. General merchandise stores faced a 1% drop in demand, the largest decline since February.

Warmer weather may be partially to blame for the 0.9% decline in apparel sales. December 2015 was the warmest on record for the U.S., and likely curtailed sales for winter clothing.

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Daniel Simmons