Thursday, May 11, 2006

Retail Sales Healthy, Job Market Strong, Inventories Rise

- Advance Retail Sales for April rose .5% versus estimates of a .8% gain and a .6% increase in March.
- Retail Sales Less Autos for April rose .7% versus estimates of a .9% increase and a .5% gain in March.
- Initial Jobless Claims for last week rose to 324K versus estimates of 315K and 325K the prior week.
- Continuing Claims fell to 2392K versus estimates of 2450K and 2441K prior.
- Business Inventories for March rose .7% versus estimates of a .5% increase and a .1% gain in February.
BOTTOM LINE: Sales at US retailers rose less than forecast in April as near-record gasoline prices drained Americans’ wallets, raising the odds the economy will slow, Bloomberg said. Retail sales account for almost half of all consumer spending, which in turn accounts for about 70% of the economy. The largest declines in sales last month were at auto dealers and building materials stores. Job and wage gains are more than offsetting higher fuel prices so far. I continue to believe retail sales will slow to average levels from robust rates through year-end.

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, a sign the labor market remains firm, Bloomberg said. The four-week average of jobless claims rose to 317,250 from 314,750 the prior week. The unemployment rate for those eligible to collect benefits, which tracks the US unemployment rate, declined to 1.8% from 1.9% the prior week. I still believe the labor market will remain healthy, but slow from recent strong rates.

Businesses in the US added to inventories in March to ensure enough goods were on hand to meet stronger corporate and consumer demand, Bloomberg reported. At the March sales pace, companies had enough goods on hand to last 1.26 months, still near a record low. Inventories at building material retailers rose 1.9% in March. Inventory rebuilding will likely continue to add to economic growth over the intermediate-term

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