Retail sales in the U.S. unexpectedly fell in December, marking an end to a year that posted the weakest reading since the end of the Great Recession in 2009. The Commerce Department said on Friday retail sales fell 0.1% after an upwardly revised 0.4% gain in November, the latest indication the economy slowed down sharply in the fourth quarter.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales unchanged after a previously reported 0.2% rise in November and, for 2015, U.S. retail sales gained by just 2.1%, which is the weakest reading since 2009, after rising 3.9% in 2014.
The Commerce Department blamed an unseasonably warm winter–and last year they blamed the cold for December missing expectations–but the report is coupled with weak data out of construction, manufacturing and exports. The data could cause economists to lower their fourth-quarter GDP estimates.
Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales in the U.S. fell 0.3% after a downwardly revised 0.5% rise the prior month. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product. Core retail sales were initially reported to have gained 0.6% in November and economists had forecast them rising 0.3% last month.