MasterCard Advisors: December total U.S. retail sales up 2.4% year-over-year

Purchase, N.Y. -- Total retail sales (excluding automotive) for December 2012 grew by 2.4% year-over-year, according to a SpendingPulse report released Wednesday by MasterCard Advisors, the professional services arm of MasterCard. (SpendingPulse reports on national retail sales and is based on aggregate sales activity in the MasterCard payments network, coupled with estimates for all other payment forms, including cash and check.)

Taking out both autos and gasoline, retail spending grew at a slightly stronger 2.8% year-over-year, down from total retail sales (ex. auto) growth of 4.5% in November.

The underlying softness of holiday related sectors of retail sales acted as a drag on December’s growth rate. However, when examining a broader view of retail, the growth rates show modest improvement.

“Throughout the year, we had been seeing a sustained, albeit gentle strength to the monthly numbers,” said Kamalesh Rao, director of economic research for MasterCa