According to the US Commerce Department, December retail sales increased by 0.6% from a revised 0.2% pace in November thanks to strong online auto sales.
Online car shopping hit a record high in 2016 which helped lift overall retail sales. Higher gas prices also boosted sales. But excluding these two volatile categories, so-called core retail sales were flat (0.4% predicted by economists).
“Consumers are actually in pretty good shape,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West, a subsidiary of BNP Paribas.
“Debt service burdens are at the lowest level since we started tracking the data in the 1980s, so there’s some spending power there. It seems like consumers really decided to spend on cars in December rather than in some more traditional sectors,” he told Business Insider.