WRAPUP 4-US retail sales boost 4th-qtr growth prospects

* Sales rise 0.8 pct in November, “core sales” up 0.9 pct

* Sales ex-autos jump 1.2 pct, largest gain since March

* Producer prices PPI up 0.8 pct, core up 0.3 pct

* Economists raise growth projections on strong data
(Adds Fed decision, updates markets)

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON, Dec 14 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. retail sales rose for a
fifth straight month in November as consumers hit the malls in
droves at the start of the holiday shopping season, evidence
the recovery gathered steam in the fourth quarter.

Sales rose a solid 0.8 percent as shoppers snapped up
clothing, sporting goods and other items, data from the
Commerce Department showed on Tuesday.

A separate report from the Labor Department showed producer
prices increased 0.8 percent last month, above forecasts for a
0.6 percent gain. Core wholesale prices, excluding food and
energy prices, rose a milder 0.3 percent.

The strong sales report, which contained upward revisions
for both September and October, prompted economists to ratchet
their fourth-quarter economic growth forecasts upward by as
much as a full percentage point.

The economy grew at a tepid 2.5 percent annual rate in the
third quarter, and some forecasters now expect growth around
3.5 percent in the final three months of the year.

“The fourth-quarter is shaping up to be relatively decent,
probably north of three percent,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior
economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Stocks on Wall Street rose on the data, shrugging off a
weak earnings report from Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N: ). The top
consumer electronics chain reported a decline in quarterly
results and same-store sales and cut its full-year outlook. For
details, see [ID:nN13207737]

The dollar pulled off three-week lows versus the euro,
while the prices for U.S. government debt fell.

The sales data fit in with a string of recent reports
suggesting the U.S. recovery was strengthening.

Federal Reserve policymakers on Tuesday viewed the pace of
the recovery as still too slow to bring down a 9.8 percent
unemployment rate. They reaffirmed their commitment to buy $600
billion in government debt to bolster the economy.
[ID:nN14232588]
<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ For graphics, click on the links: U.S. retail sales: http://r.reuters.com/cax99q U.S. online retail sales: http://r.reuters.com/nax99q U.S. producer prices: http://r.reuters.com/bys99 Related stories: Year of the sweater sees rising retail sales [ID:nN14261032] Retail Federation raises holiday forecast: [ID:nN14271743] Best Buy's sales raise holiday concerns [ID:nN13207737] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

AUTOS HOLD SALES BACK

Auto sales in November fell 0.8 percent, partially
reversing October’s out-sized 5.6 percent gain.

Excluding autos, sales increased 1.2 percent, the largest
rise since March and double economists’ forecasts.

Sales last month were buoyed by a 2.7 percent rise in
receipts at clothing and clothing accessories stores, the
largest increase since March. Spending on non-essential goods
was also up, lifting sales at sporting goods, hobby, book and
music stores 2.3 percent, the biggest gain in almost a year.

A 4 percent jump in gasoline station receipts — the
largest in a year — also lifted the overall sales count.

Core retail sales, which exclude autos, gasoline and
building materials, rose 0.9 percent after a 0.5 percent gain
in October. These correspond most closely with the consumer
spending component of the government’s GDP report.

Though economists cautioned that sales could drop in
December, they said fourth-quarter consumer spending growth
would far exceed the 2.8 percent rate recorded in the
July-September period.

“For the first time since the recession ended, consumers
are contributing to growth in a real way,” said Chris Low,
chief economist at FTN Financial in New York.

Economists expect the tax deal struck last week by the
Obama administration and Republican lawmakers to boost spending
next year, keeping growth on an upward trajectory even as the
boost from a rebuilding of inventories wanes.

A second report from the Commerce Department showed
business inventories rose by a less-than-expected 0.7 percent
in October. Should the pace of inventory accumulation continue
to slow in the next two months, that could temper the upbeat
growth estimates for the fourth quarter. [ID:nN14249682]
(Additional Reporting by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa; Editing by
Chizu Nomiyama)

WRAPUP 4-US retail sales boost 4th-qtr growth prospects