American Shoppers Splurge In September

By Agence France-Presse Consumers -- the life of the U.S. economy -- shrugged off rising energy prices and splurged in malls and car showrooms in September, a government report showed Oct. 15. Consumers boosted retail sales by 1.5% in the month, the Commerce Department said, double most economists' modest predictions. It was the steepest gain since March and an encouraging sign for the economy. The boom was sparked by a 4.2% surge in automobile sales in the month, the steepest gain since October 2001, as dealers lured consumers with financial incentives. Hurricanes, too, may have spurred buying, analysts said. "You can't keep people out of the stores, especially when they need to shore up their homes in the face of hurricanes," said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors. Just over one-quarter of the retail sales outside of the vehicle sector came from a 1.4% surge in sales of building material and garden equipment, he noted. "How long people can continue to keep on spending at this pace is unclear. Clearly, we need some more jobs to generate needed income. But for now, the economy looks to be in decent shape," Naroff said. Compared to last year, retail sales were up 7.7%. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2004

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