Cold weather across much of the United States contributed to a drop in retail sales in January. Americans spent less on autos and clothing and at restaurants during an unusually frigid month.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales fell 0.4 percent last month. That marked the second straight decline after a 0.1 percent drop in December.
The decline suggests that the momentum from consumer spending at the end of 2013 has tailed off this winter.
Heavy winter storms across the country cut into store traffic and weighed on post-holiday sales. Major store chains have reduced their profit outlooks, including Walmart, the largest retailer. — AP
The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 8,000 last week to 339,000, evidence that layoffs ticked up. Still, the rise wasn’t enough to suggest a worsening job market.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, increased 3,500 to a seasonally adjusted 336,750.
U.S. businesses restocked at a faster pace in December, but sales slowed. The Commerce Department said Thursday that inventories rose 0.5 percent after a 0.4 percent November rise. Sales growth fell to 0.1 percent, from 0.7 percent in November. — AP