Roundup: U.S. retail sales drop in November amid COVID-19 spikes

2020-12-17 07:30

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- U.S. retail sales dropped by 1.1 percent in November from the previous month amid nationwide COVID-19 spikes, the country's Commerce Department reported on Wednesday.

The September to October percent change was revised from up 0.3 percent to down 0.1 percent, according to the report.

Despite falling for two consecutive months, total sales for the September 2020 through November 2020 period were up 5.2 percent from the same period a year ago, the report showed.

Retail trade sales in November were down 0.8 percent from October, but 7.1 percent above last year, the report showed.

Non-store retailers were up 29.2 percent from November 2019, while food services and drinking places were down 17.2 percent from last year, according to the report.

"Consumers held back on spending in November as virus rates spiked, states imposed retail restrictions and congressional stimulus discussions were gridlocked," National Retail Federation (NRF) President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.

"It's clear that additional fiscal stimulus from Congress is needed and we are hopeful it will be passed soon as we enter the final stretch of the holiday season," Shay said.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said on Wednesday that the case for fiscal policy right now is "very strong" as millions of Americans are set to lose pandemic relief benefits by the end of the year.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers have been deadlocked for months over the size and scope of the next round of COVID-19 relief package. On Wednesday, leaders of both sides announced progress in the negotiations on the long-waited relief.

"We were expecting a decline in holiday (retail) sales for November and would not be surprised to see December post a modest decline as well," Tim Quinlan and Shannon Seery, economists at the Wells Fargo Securities, wrote in an analysis.

"But, because it is coming off such a high level of spending earlier this year, a big year-over-year increase is still in the cards," they said.

Echoing their view, Shay said the NRF still expects "a strong holiday season" compared with last year.

Quinlan and Seery also noted that some of the steepest declines in November were in stores where people would ordinarily do a lot of their holiday shopping.

Department stores, for example, fell 7.7 percent, and clothing stores also saw a 6.8 percent monthly decline, they noted, adding that even e-commerce increased only 0.2 percent.
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