American consumers opened up their wallets a little bit more in December, according to new figures from the U.S. Commerce Department.

Photo: Evan Lockridge

Photo: Evan Lockridge

Retail sales increased 0.2% from November, more than one consensus forecast by economists. Sales figures were also revised to increases of 0.4%, from an originally reported 0.7% in November, while October’s was revised to 0.5% from 0.6%.

Total retail sales for 2013, posted a 4.5% gain, the weakest in four years and less than the 5.4% gain in 2012 and 2011’s 7.5% hike.

December sales were hampered by a 1.8% decline in autos, though the industry still had it best year since 2007, just before the Great Recession. Excluding autos, gasoline and building supplies, December retail sales posted a 0.7% increase, which is considered solid.

The December increase is believed to be strong enough to support overall an U.S. economic annual growth rate of 3% in the final quarter of the year, once official numbers are posted.

Paul Dales, Senior U.S. Economist at Capital Economics told the Los Angeles Timess, “If we’re right in thinking that the underlying trend in jobs growth is still improving, households will continue to spend more freely in 2014.”

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