Average U.S. distributor sales for December 2012 declined 1.6 percent, according to figures released by the Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International.

For the year, members saw an average increase of 5.6 percent.

“The quarter’s performance was similar to Grainger’s, where average daily U.S. sales were up 4 percent in October and up 6 percent in November before declining 1 percent in December,” said Brian Loftus, the association’s market research and benchmarking analyst. 

HVAC wholesalers were not the only ones affected. The Bureau of Economic Analysis said overall U.S. gross domestic product declined 0.1 percent during the quarter.

“A likely explanation for the weak December is the hesitancy from businesses and consumers over the approaching fiscal cliff,” said Andrew Duguay, a senior economist with ITR Economics. “The month progressed with no clear sign of what tax rates would be available in 2013.”

But with the strong annual growth rate, it is likely more economic expansion is ahead, Duguay said.

“Now that the American Taxpayer Relief Act has been passed, we expect some of the hesitancy businesses felt will fade as they resume investments in equipment and repairs,” he said.