Retail sales rise 0.7% in November, largest gain in eight months

Retail sales climbed 0.7% in November, their biggest uptick in eight months

Retail sales rose more than expected in November as holiday shoppers took advantage of falling gas prices and an improving job market to scoop up electronics and other goods.

In November, retail sales climbed to $449.3 billion, up 0.7% from October and up 5.1% from November 2013, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Some forecasts had predicted a 0.4% month-to-month jump.

The boost from September to October was revised up to 0.5%, from a 0.3% upswing. 

November's growth -- the largest in eight months -- was boosted by a 1.7% surge in sales from auto and other motor vehicle dealers. If that category is stripped out, retail sales grew by 0.5% -- the same as October. 

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FOR THE RECORD

3:08 p.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly said sales at auto and other motor vehicle dealers grew 9.5% in November from the previous month. That is the year-over-year growth. Month-over-month sales actually grew 1.7%.

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Retail sales in November can be a crucial barometer of consumer sentiment and retail performance for the overall season -- a make-or-break period when retailers can sometimes rake in 40% of their annual sales. Consumer spending makes up more than two-thirds of the economy.

The healthy growth last month is welcome news for retailers who had seen sales drop 11% and traffic fall by more than 5% over the Black Friday weekend, which started on Thanksgiving and ran through Sunday. Analysts said earlier-than-ever promotions rolled out by nervous retailers had pulled some spending into early November. 

Shoppers were given a boost by falling pump prices, which pushed sales at gas stations down 0.8%.

Electronics and appliance stores -- always a popular category during Black Friday sales -- showed a 0.9% increase. Department store sales were up 1%. The retail sales figures do not include Cyber Monday, which fell in December this year

Furniture sales rose 0.5%. Consumers also spent 1.4% more than the previous month on building materials and garden supplies.

Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

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