RPT-PREVIEW-US Jan retail sales seen +0.3 pct, ex-autos +0.5 pct

WHAT: U.S. January retail sales report

WHEN: Thursday, Feb. 11 at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT)

REUTERS FORECASTS:

The median forecast for retail sales is for a rise of 0.3
percent after a 0.3 percent fall in December. Forecasts range
from a drop of 1 percent to an increase of 0.8 percent.

The median forecast for sales excluding autos is for an
increase of 0.5 percent in January after a 0.2 percent fall the
prior month. Forecasts range from a fall of 0.5 percent to a
gain of 1.1 percent.

FACTORS TO WATCH:

Weak auto sales probably held back U.S. retail sales in
January. Unit auto sales fell 4 percent from December to an
annualized 10.8 million units as Toyota slumped on a massive
vehicle recall. In addition, a rise in dealership incentives
from the prior month likely lowered the dollar value of auto
sales in January.

Excluding autos, sales at U.S. retailers likely rose a bit
more solid, lifted by strong gasoline receipts. Chain store
sales recorded gains in January, but unusually cold
temperatures could have hit sales of building materials.

Core retail sales — excluding autos, gasoline and building
materials — probably resumed their upward trend after
stumbling in December.

The U.S. economy resumed growth in the second half of 2009,
largely driven by government stimulus and businesses being less
aggressive in liquidating stocks of unsold merchandise. Retail
sales are being anxiously watched for signs whether households
are healthy enough to take over the baton from the government
and drive the economic recovery.

Consumer spending normally accounts for more than
two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, but high unemployment is
constraining households’ capacity to spend. However, there are
signs the labor market is close to turning, with factory
employment gaining in January for the first time in three
years. The average workweek rose to its highest level in a year
last month.

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(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

RPT-PREVIEW-US Jan retail sales seen +0.3 pct, ex-autos +0.5 pct