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The Best Retail Sales Since 2017 Brighten US Growth Outlook

With first-quarter gross domestic product figures due April 26, the surprisingly strong retail report spurred economists to further increase projections.

www.Globest.com   
By Reade Pickert | April 19, 2019
Photo by Bloomberg
(Bloomberg) Retail sales in the U.S. jumped by the most since September 2017 and first-time filings for unemployment benefits dropped to a fresh 49-year low, as a strong labor market gives American consumers the wherewithal to keep the economy chugging along.

The value of overall sales in March rose 1.6 percent, boosted by gains in motor vehicles and gasoline stations, after an unrevised 0.2 percent decrease the prior month, according to Commerce Department figures released Thursday. That exceeded all forecasts in Bloomberg’s survey calling for a 1 percent gain.

A Labor Department report released at the same time showed initial jobless claims fell last week to 192,000, the lowest since September 1969. Economists had projected an increase.

“The labor market is alive and well,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities LLC. Income gains support consumer spending and “as long as the labor market is doing well there is good reason to expect consumer spending should do fine.”

With first-quarter gross domestic product figures due April 26, the surprisingly strong retail report spurred economists to further increase projections. Analysts raised economic growth forecasts for the period Wednesday after a report showing the trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in February. The economy had showed signs of slowing heading into 2019, before the U.S. central bank put rate hikes on indefinite hold and a government shutdown clouded the outlook.

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