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US Retail Sales Up, Jobless Claims Down

Dec. 11, 2014
Retail sales in November added a solid 0.7% from the previous month to $449.3 billion. Jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, were 294,000 for the week to December 6, down 3,000 from a week earlier.

While retail sales and jobless claims data showed a strengthening economy Thursday, prices for exports and imports both fell, signaling little added inflationary pressure in the past month.

Retail sales in November, the beginning of the holiday shopping season, added a solid 0.7% from the previous month to $449.3 billion, Commerce Department data showed. 

The month was up 5.1% from a year ago, accelerating from previous months; sales over the September-November quarter together grew 4.7% year-on-year.

Industries showing the most strength in sales were automobiles, building supplies and clothing stores, as well as general online retailers, where sales were up 8.7% year on  year.

"Retail sales in the fourth quarter are so far running 1% higher than the third quarter on average, suggesting consumer spending will help drive yet another healthy GDP increase in the final quarter of the year," said Chris Williamson of Markit.

"It is the trend that is important, not the one-month moves," said Jennifer Lee of BMO Capital Markets. "The soft September has given way to a stronger October and November."

Weekly claims for unemployment insurance edged lower but remained in the trendline for this year. Jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, were 294,000 for the week to December 6, down 3,000 from a week earlier. 

The four-week moving average, which has risen somewhat since late October, was little-changed at 299,250, compared to 332,750 a year ago.

The Labor Department meanwhile reported Thursday that  import and export prices fell in November, showing little trade-based pressure on  inflation.

Import prices declined 1.5% from October, mainly driven by the sharp fall in oil prices.

The price index for imports was down 2.3% from a year ago, and 4.2% in five months, mainly due to lower oil prices.

Excluding fuel, import prices fell 0.2% in the month, the third consecutive monthly fall, but year-on-year were flat.

Prices for  exports declined 1% in November, for a 1.9% fall from a year ago, despite a pickup in agricultural prices, suggesting continued pressure on exporters from slowing growth around the world.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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