U.S. retail sales grew in December at their slowest pace in seven months but finished 2011 with a year-over-year rise of 6.4 percent, the Commerce Department said.
December sales rose 0.1 percent after an upwardly revised 0.4 percent increase in November, when retailers reported strong Thanksgiving weekend sales. Sales growth in November originally was estimated at 0.2 percent.
Retail sales make up about one-third of consumer spending, which accounts for some 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, and are watched closely by the transportation industry for their impact on freight volumes.
U.S. containerized imports rose 5 percent in November, their sharpest year-over-year increase since May, as signs of life in the moribund housing market buoyed sales of furniture and other home goods, PIERS data show.
Government data indicate retail sales growth tapered off in December compared with November. Spending at electronics and appliance stores fell 3.9 percent from November, while department store sales slipped 0.2 percent.
Sales of motor vehicles and parts increased 1.5 percent. Furniture sales rose 1 percent and hardware stores rose 1.6 percent, possibly aided by unseasonably warm weather across much of the nation.
Sales at food and beverage stores fell 0.2 percent and receipts at gasoline stations fell 1.6 percent after an 0.9 percent increase in November.
Core retail sales, which exclude autos, gasoline and building materials, fell 0.1 percent in December after rising 0.3 percent in November.