Retail sales are expected to show a slight advance in November, but consumers still appear hesitant to spend big, a major obstacle facing the economic recovery.
Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected sales rose 0.6 percent rise last month, after a 1.4 percent increase in October. Excluding autos, sales likely will rise 0.4 percent, compared with 0.2 percent in October.
The Commerce Department will release the report at 8:30 a.m. EST Friday.
After posting two straight gains following more than a year of declines, big chain retail stores earlier this month reported a dip in November sales. Those figures didn't include Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, which no longer reports monthly sales.
But a diverse group of stores, including Macy's Inc., Saks Inc., Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and Target Corp., did post sharper-than-expected sales declines in November.
Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of total economic activity and wary shoppers are a worrisome sign for retailers during the crucial holiday season.
Economists say depressed spending could persist for several years amid high unemployment _ now at 10 percent. Over the 12 months ending in October, wages and salaries, the most important component of incomes, fell 2.9 percent, according to the Commerce Department.