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If the economic pundits are expecting a buying binge by consumers, they will need to wait a bit longer, if the data just provided by the U.S. Commerce Department is any guide.

Specifically, that government agency earlier this morning reported that retail sales had inched forward by just 0.1% in January, the nominal gain that had been the consensus forecast. By comparison, that metric had charged ahead by 0.5% in December. The year-to-year increase, however, was a more formidable 4.4%.

It should be noted that such activity is the result of a random sampling of 5,000 retail and food service firms. The advance monthly sales for retail and food services for February is scheduled for release on March 13, 2013.

Meanwhile, if we back out sales of motor vehicles and parts from the aggregate result (which economists do as these high-priced goods can distort the overall picture), we find that such sales rose by just 0.2% last month. That, too, was right on consensus, but a tad less than the December core retail sales increase of 0.3%. It should be noted that neither the total figure for December nor the core result for that final month of 2012 was revised.

As to the various components, we find that sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers eased by 0.1% last month, following a nifty gain the prior month. Also falling in January were sales at furniture and home furnishings retailers and at health personal care stores. Clothing and clothing accessories outlets also suffered a pullback in activity, with sales there dipping by 0.3% last month, following a 1.2% increase in December, with that result likely being aided by late-Christmas shopping.

On the other hand, the latest month was helped by rising demand at food and beverage stores, where sales jumped by 0.6%, and at general merchandise dealers.

Taken as a whole, this was a mildly disturbing report, albeit, as noted, not an unexpected one. This latest data should not change the overall expectation of modest GDP growth in the opening three months of 2013. In all, we sense that economic growth will resume this quarter, with a gain of 1% to 2%, following the fourth quarter's nominal contraction of 0.1%.   

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.