Economic digest: Consumer spending ratchets up; gain biggest since 2009

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Posted: Friday, May 2, 2014 12:00 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers ramped up their spending in March at the fastest pace in 4½ years, a sign that the economy is gaining momentum after its winter slowdown.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that consumer spending rose 0.9 percent, the largest monthly gain since April 2009. The department also revised up its estimate of the spending increase in February to 0.5 percent from 0.3 percent.

Income rose 0.5 percent in March after rising 0.4 percent in February.

Manufacturing shows signs of expansion

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. manufacturing grew faster in April than in March as exports picked up and factories accelerated hiring.

The higher reading adds to other evidence that manufacturers are expanding steadily after a sluggish start to the year. Solid factory output will likely boost economic growth in the coming months.

The Institute for Supply Management said Thursday that its manufacturing index rose to 54.9 from 53.7 in March. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

Jobless claims are up again

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since February.

The Labor Department said Thursday that a seasonally adjusted 344,000 people applied for benefits, up 14,000 from the previous week and the most since late February. The less-volatile four-week average rose by 3,000 to 320,000, a figure consistent with an improving job market.

The number of people applying for benefits has risen three straight weeks, but Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said last week’s numbers might have been warped by the Easter holiday.

“We think the underlying trend (in applications) is falling, but only slowly,” Shepherdson wrote in a research note.

Construction spending rises slightly

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. construction spending rose slightly in March, fueled by increases for apartments, single-family homes, factories, health care centers and office projects.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that construction spending increased just 0.2 percent in March after having fallen 0.2 percent in February. The March gains put construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $942.5 billion, an 8.4 percent increase year-over-year.

Mortgage rates dip

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages declined slightly this week as the spring home-buying season has gotten off to a slow start.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate for the 30-year loan fell to 4.29 percent from 4.33 percent. The average for the 15-year mortgage ticked down to 3.38 percent from 3.39 percent.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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