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Retail sales rise more than expected

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Retail sales rose more than expected in November, boosting hopes that the all-important consumer sector will support the fragile recovery.

The government's report came as a surprise because the nation's retailers have been reporting generally lackluster results for the start of the holiday shopping season. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of overall economic activity.

But retail sales rose 1.3 percent last month, after a 1.1-percent October gain, the Commerce Department said Friday. It was the biggest advance since sales jumped 2.4 percent in August, and more than double the 0.6-percent increase economists had expected.

Excluding autos, retail sales rose 1.2 percent, triple the 0.4-percent advance economists expected.

A 6-percent surge in sales at service stations, partly reflecting higher gasoline prices, led the overall gain. But even excluding that jump, retail sales posted a respectable 0.8-percent rise in November.

Economists' general view has been that double-digit unemployment levels would keep consumers cautious in their spending and act as a drag on the economy as it struggles to emerge from the worst recession since the 1930s.

The November retail sales report showed that auto sales rose 1.6 percent, a solid performance after a 7.1-percent surge in October.

Sales at department stores increased 0.7 percent, and the broader category that includes big retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. posted a 0.8-percent increase.

Sales also jumped 2.8 percent at electronics and appliance stores, and 1.5 percent at hardware stores.

Sales did fall 0.7 percent at furniture stores, something of a surprise since analysts had expected the recent rebound in home sales to bolster demand for furniture.

After posting two straight gains following more than a year of declines, big chain retail stores earlier this month reported a dip in November sales. Those figures don't include Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, which no longer reports monthly sales.

But a diverse group of stores, including Macy's Inc., Saks Inc., Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and Target, did post sharper-than-expected sales declines in November.

The overall economy rose at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the July-September quarter, the first increase after a record four straight declines. Analysts had forecast growth to sag a bit in the current quarter and the first half of 2010 because they expected consumer spending would weaken under the weight of 10 percent unemployment.

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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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