Retail sales fell in December as demand for autos, clothing and appliances all slipped, a disappointing finish to a year in which sales dropped by the largest amount in 27 years of records.
The weakness in consumer demand highlighted the formidable hurdles facing the economy as it struggles to recover from the deepest recession in seven decades.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales declined 0.3 percent in December compared with November, much weaker than the 0.5 percent rise that economists had been expecting. Excluding autos, sales dropped by 0.2 percent, also weaker than the 0.3 percent rise analyst had forecast.
For the year, sales were down 6.2 percent, the biggest decline on records that go back to 1992. The only other year that sales had fallen was 2008, when they slipped by 0.5 percent.
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