Economy Watch: Retail Sales See November Gain

U.S. retail sales edged up 0.7 percent in November compared with October, the Census Bureau reported.

U.S. retail sales edged up 0.7 percent in November compared with October, the Census Bureau reported on Thursday. That figure is adjusted for seasonal variations—and that’s an important factor in November—but not for price changes. Then again, there’s been very little inflation lately. Sales were up by 4.7 percent on an annual basis.

Improved car sales were an important component of the uptick in retail sales. Compared with October, auto and auto parts sales gained 1.8 percent in November. Compared with a year ago, vehicle sales were up 10.2 percent. Sales of gas to put in those cars dropped 1.1 percent for the month, largely because of a decline in the price of gas.

Other retail segments that did well in November, according to the bureau, were building materials and garden supplies (up 1.8 percent) and restaurants and bars (up 1.3 percent). Internet sales were up 2.2 percent. Losing retail categories besides gas included grocery stores (down 0.3 percent) and clothing stores (off 0.2 percent).

CRE prices stable in October

According to Costar on Thursday, CRE prices stabilized in October, which the company chalked up to improvement in real estate fundamentals, along with a resolution of the federal government shutdown and debt ceiling fracas during the month, as well as increased clarity over the Fed’s tapering policy. The two broadest measures of pricing for commercial properties within the CoStar Commercial Repeat Sale Indices (CCRSI)—namely, the value-weighted U.S. Composite Index and the equal-weighted U.S. Composite Index—advanced by 1.1 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

On an annual basis, the equal-weighted U.S. Composite Index has risen 7.4 percent, while the value-weighted U.S. Composite Index has gained 9.5 percent. Aggregate vacancy rates across the four major property types have nearly returned to their historical average levels, and with the exception of the multifamily sector, new construction remains low, CoStar notes.

The percentage of commercial property selling at distressed prices dropped to 10.7 percent in October, down from nearly 20 percent a year earlier. The current percentage is the lowest since Dec. 2008, even though distress levels vary widely by market. In housing-bust markets—including, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Orlando—distress deals still accounted for more than 20 percent of all CRE sales in the third quarter of 2013. Conversely, in healthier markets, such as San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle and New York, the share of distressed CRE sales fell into the single digits in the third quarter of 2013.

Unemployment claims spike

The weekly tabulation of initial unemployment claims proved its reputation for volatility on Thursday, with the U.S. Department of Labor reporting that for the week ending Dec. 7, initial claims were at an annualized 368,000, an increase of 68,000 from the previous week. The four-week moving average was 328,750, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week.

Wall Street dropped again on Thursday–again with the worries about tapering, it seems. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 104.1 points, or 0.66 percent. The S&P 500 lost 0.38 percent and the Nasdaq dropped 1.29 percent.