WASHINGTON — Retail sales, bolstered by last-minute Christmas shopping, surged a near-record 4.4% in December, the government reported today.
The Commerce Department said retail sales totaled a seasonally adjusted $126.26 billion last month, after a revised 0.6% decline in November.
The December increase was the largest since a record 5.6% jump in September. That increase had been spurred by a consumer rush to take advantage of cut-rate auto financing deals offered to reduce a huge backlog of unsold 1986 cars.
But some private economic analysts took a gloomy view of sales for 1987 and said the December auto figures reflected buyers eager to take advantage of sales tax deductions that disappeared with the New Year.
"A lot of December sales were borrowed from January and perhaps beyond," said Lawrence Chimerine, president of Chase Econometrics. "It's a matter of shifting spending around. . . . We're already seeing a sharp falloff offsetting a large part of the December increase."