Third monthly drop for U.S. retail sales

There wasn't a whole lot of shopping going on in store or online.

Retail sales dropped in the United States for the third straight month, according to Commerce Department data released Friday.

Total sales were down a weaker-than-expected 0.7 percent in December, while online sales tumbled 5.8 percent.

The slowdown in retail spending came amid a new wave of job losses, looming expiration of jobless benefits at the end of December, and renewed measures to slow the health crisis.

Consumers cut back on spending nearly across the board, with restaurants and bars among the hardest hit due to the shutdown of indoor dining closed in some states. Sales at electronic and appliance stores were also at the top of the sales decline.

December's weak retail sales report adds further evidence of an economy that lost speed at the end of 2020.

Things could change though in coming months. First of all, Congress did extend jobless benefits at the very end of the year, and also approved $600 stimulus checks - so that should immediately provide a boost.

And there could be more to come. President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a nearly $2 trillion stimulus plan this week, which includes direct relief to households and small business