The holiday shopping season is off to a slow start as judged by the Advance Retail Sales numbers from the Commerce Department.

Even factoring in September upward revision, the Econoday Consensus Forecast was well short of the mark.

The Wall Street Journal reports Holiday Retail Sales Had a Lackluster November Start.

Consumers held back on purchases of discretionary items ranging from clothes to electronics in November. Retail sales excluding cars and gasoline were unchanged from the previous month, the Commerce Department said Friday. When those volatile categories are included, sales rose 0.2%, seasonally adjusted.

The Commerce Department said sales in November declined sharply across categories that are closely tied with holiday gift-giving, including clothing, electronics, department and sporting goods stores. Spending at bars and restaurants also dropped 0.3% last month, the steepest monthly decline since last December.

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Retail sales account for about a quarter of consumer spending. Friday’s Commerce report doesn’t track spending on most services, such as health care and housing, and the figures aren’t adjusted for inflation.

Seasonal Adjustments

This could just be a seasonal adjustment factor given the fact that Thanksgiving fell on November 28, the last possible date.

Then again, Household Debt Climbs to Record High, Delinquencies Rise

Rising credit card delinquencies and subprime auto stress are other signs of caution.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock