NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Retail sales rose in the United States in November, the government said Thursday, beating analysts' forecasts as consumer spending rebounded from a slump in October.
The Commerce Department said retail sales rose 0.9 percent to $322.4 billion after being flat in October. Excluding volatile automobile sales, retail sales rose 0.4 percent after rising a revised 0.4 percent in October.
Economists, on average, expected sales to rise 0.7 percent and sales excluding autos to rise 0.3 percent, according to Briefing.com.
Initially, the department reported that sales had declined in October.
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"Consumers are not going to have as much strength in the fourth quarter as they had in the third, but the positive trend for consumer spending is still intact," Richard Rippe, chief economist at Prudential Financial, told CNNfn.
Separately, the Labor Department reported that weekly claims for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly last week to their highest level in six weeks. U.S. stock prices rose in early trading, while Treasury bond prices fell.
Wall Street pays close attention to consumer spending, which makes up more than two-thirds of the total U.S. economy. Consumer spending exploded in the third quarter, fueled by tax rebate checks and proceeds from mortgage refinancing, and pushed total economic growth to an 8.2-percent rate, the fastest in nearly 20 years.
That spending has slowed down in the fourth quarter, as the effects of the rebate checks and refinancing have faded, but a slowly improving labor market has helped keep consumers shopping during the holiday season, critical to retailers.
November's sales rebound was driven by a 2.6-percent gain in the sales of automobiles and parts, following October's 1.4-percent decline.
But many other industries enjoyed gains as well -- sales at electronics and appliance stores jumped 2.2 percent, furniture sales rose 1 percent and clothing sales rose 1.1 percent.
Sales at gasoline stations rose 1.6 percent, reflecting higher prices for gas, following October's 1.9-percent decline.