Sales at U.S. retailers declined in December to wrap the weakest year since 2009, raising concern about the momentum in consumer spending heading into 2016. The 0.1 percent drop matched the median forecast of 84 economists surveyed by Bloomberg and followed a 0.4 percent gain in November, Commerce Department figures showed Friday in Washington. For all of 2015, purchases climbed 2.1 percent, the smallest advance of the current economic expansion.
The slowdown, including electronics stores, clothing merchants and grocers, indicates Americans probably preferred to sock away the savings from cheaper fuel instead of splurging during the holiday season. While hiring has been robust in recent months, faster wage gains remain elusive, one reason household spending may have a tougher time accelerating as the new year gets under way. “There isn’t anything encouraging in this report,” said Thomas Simons, a money-market economist at Jefferies Group LLC in New York. “It’s very disappointing. The labor market is in good shape, which suggests the outlook is probably better than this.” FULL REPORT