Economic digest: Rise in retail sales indicates strong start to holiday season

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Posted: Friday, December 13, 2013 12:00 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers ramped up spending in November on cars, appliances and furniture and made more purchases online, signaling growing confidence in the economy at the start of the holiday shopping season.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales rose 0.7 percent, the biggest gain in five months. October's figure was also revised higher to 0.6 percent.

Two straight months of healthy sales suggest steady hiring is encouraging Americans to spend more this holiday season, particularly on big-ticket items. That could give a critical boost to the economic growth.

Thursday's report “suggests that the holiday shopping season began on a strong note,” Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients.

The report also shows that consumers purchased more at home on their computers last month — and less at traditional stores. Those trends could explain why many retail chains estimated disappointing sales over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, one of the most critical for those businesses.

Online and catalog sales rose 2.2 percent last month, the most in nearly 18 months.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 68,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 368,000, the largest increase in more than a year.

The surge in first-time applications could be a troubling sign if it lasts. But it likely reflects the difficulty adjusting for delays after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average rose 6,000 to 328,750. That is close to pre-recession levels and generally a positive sign for job gains.

Applications had tumbled in recent weeks to nearly six-year lows, partly because of a late Thanksgiving holiday that may have distorted the government's seasonal adjustments.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. companies boosted their stockpiles at the fastest rate in nine months in October as their sales grew. The gain in restocking indicates businesses anticipated a healthy holiday shopping season.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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