Jumped 4.4 percentIn December
Retail sales in the United States, bolstered by last-minute Christmas shopping, surged a near-record 4.4 percent in December, the government reported.
The Commerce Department said that retail sales totaled a seasonally adjusted $126.26 billion last month following a revised 0.6 percent decline in November.
The December increase was the largest since a record 5.6 percent jump in September. That increase had been spurred by a consumer rush to take advantage of cut-rate auto financing deals offered to reduce a huge backlog of unsold 1986-model cars.
The retail sales numbers have been heavily influenced in recent months by the swings in auto sales. After rising at a record pace in September, total sales plunged a record 5.2 percent in October after the cut-rate financing incentives were discontinued.
Domestic Auto Sales
Fell in Early January
DETROIT - Domestic car sales by the top three U.S. automakers fell 38.7 percent in early January from a year ago as dealers nationwide began paying back for the tax-fueled spurt of December sales, companies reported.
The first three months of the year are typically a slow period as consumers recover from holiday buying binges and postpone major purchases until spring.
But this January was expected to be even slower than usual because many buyers who would normally have purchased cars in 1987 did so in 1986, lured by widespread deep-discount financing incentives from August to October and by the 1987 elimination of sales tax deductions.
Both factors contributed to record-setting car sales in 1986. The Big Three finished slightly down in 1986 from the year before but the industry as a whole - importers and domestic makers - sold more than 11.4 million cars to U.S. buyers.
Together the Big Three sold 102,829 domestic-made cars in the United States from Jan. 1-10, compared with 167,801 during the period in 1986. There were eight selling days in the period both years.
Grew in December
NEW YORK - U.S. consumers turned more optimistic in December than they had been in many months, the Conference Board reported.
The consumer confidence index compiled by the industry-supported economic research organization (1985=100) rose to 94.0 in December, its highest level since 95.5 in July, from a 90.3 reading in November, and more consumers said they planned to buy cars and homes.
In the survey of 5,000 households across the nation, 25.3 percent of respondents described business conditions as good, up from 23.1 percent in November, and 22.1 percent expected jobs to be plentiful, up from 19.1 percent.