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2015 Was Weakest Year for Retail Since 2009


Woman walks through Times Square with holiday shopping bags, New York, Dec. 2, 2015.

Woman walks through Times Square with holiday shopping bags, New York, Dec. 2, 2015.

U.S retail sales fell 0.1 percent in December, ending a very disappointing year for holiday sales and raising new concerns about consumer spending in 2016. All told, retail sales rose 2.1 percent for all of of 2015, a far cry from the 3.9 percent gain the year before.

Much of the downward pressure has been attributed to plunging oil prices, which have sent gasoline prices to a seven-year low in the United States.

Some economists believed the lower gasoline prices would give American consumers more disposable income. But new data from the U.S. Commerce Department suggests Americans pocketed the savings instead of splurging on holiday purchases.

Despite robust hiring in recent months, economists say consumers' reluctance to spend may be the result of weak or stagnant wage growth.

Automobile sales were little changed from the year before, but clothing fell 0.9 percent and electronic sales declined by 0.2 percent.

Consumer spending is an important economic indicator, accounting for nearly 70 percent of total economic activity in the United States.

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