Jan 17, 2024 - Economy

U.S. consumers defied expectations for spending in December

Change in U.S. retail sales of select categories, 2022 to 2023
Data: U.S. Census; Chart: Rahul Mukherjee/Axios

Americans continued to push inflation grumblings aside to spend their way through the end of 2023, government data revealed Wednesday.

Driving the news: U.S. retail sales rose 0.6% in December from November, which was more than analysts expected.

  • Total sales for the 12 months of last year were up 3.2% over 2022, driven by spending at bars and restaurants and health and personal care stores.

On the flip side, furniture and home goods stores saw sales fall as prices and demand fell.

  • Gas station sales for 2023 also fell 11.5%, as last year's highest prices fell by 23% from 2022's high.

What they're saying: "We recommend averaging the December and January retail sales data, or averaging over the November to February period, to get a more reliable read on the state of the consumer," BofA Global Research analysts wrote.

  • "We retain our view that consumer spending is healthy: it is neither surging nor slumping."

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