Retail Sales Fall Unexpectedly in December

Retail sales fall 0.3% in December, missing forecasts.
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WASHINGTON (

TheStreet

) -- Retail sales fell unexpectedly in December.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday a 0.3% decline for December, following a 1.8% gain in November. Economists had predicted a 0.5% increase.

November sales were revised upward from a 1.3% increase.

One of the the biggest disappointments in December was in auto sales, which decreased 0.8%.

Excluding cars and gasoline, sales dropped 0.3%, its first decline in five months.

Electronics, like flat-screen TVs, may have been hot gifts this season, but electronic stores still plunged 2.6%.

Wal-Mart Stores

(WMT) - Get Report

, were down 0.8%.

Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi says the decline in general merchandise stores can partially be blamed on storm activity across the country.

There was some good news, however, as furniture sales grew 0.3%. Sozzi says this confirms upbeat notes being sung by companies like

Tempur-Pedic

(TPX) - Get Report

,

Bed Bath & Beyond

(BBBY) - Get Report

and

Pier One

(PIR) - Get Report

.

Internet and mail orders climbed 1.4% and books and music increased 1.6%.

For the year, sales dropped 6.2% to $4.14 trillion, the biggest decline seen since records began in 1992. The only other annual decline -- a mere 0.5% slip -- occurred in 2008.

Despite the surprise decline, several retailers like

Williams-Sonoma

(WSM) - Get Report

,

Tiffany

(TIF) - Get Report

and

Big Lots

(BIG) - Get Report

, are upping guidance after strong holiday sales.

-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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