US retail sales data improves

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: US retail sales and jobless claims data showed a strengthening economy on Thursday, but prices for exports and imports both fell, signalling little added inflationary pressure in the past month.

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Retail sales in November, the beginning of the holiday shopping season, added a solid 0.7 percent from the previous month to $449.3 billion, Commerce Department data showed.

The month was up 5.1 percent from a year ago, accelerating from previous months; sales over the September-November quarter together grew 4.7 percent year-on-year.

Industries showing the most strength in sales were automobiles, building supplies and clothing stores, as well as general online retailers, where sales were up 8.7 percent year-on-year.

“Retail sales in the fourth quarter are so far running 1.0 percent higher than the third quarter on average, suggesting consumer spending will help drive yet another healthy GDP increase in the final quarter of the year,” said Chris Williamson of Markit.

“It is the trend that is important, not the one-month moves,” said Jennifer Lee of BMO Capital Markets. “The soft September has given way to a stronger October and November.”

Weekly claims for unemployment insurance edged lower but remained in the trendline for this year. Jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, were 294,000 for the week to December 6, down 3,000 from a week earlier.

The four-week moving average, which has risen somewhat since late October, was little-changed at 299,250, compared to 332,750 a year ago.

The Labor Department meanwhile reported Thursday that US import and export prices fell in November, showing little trade-based pressure on US inflation.

Import prices declined 1.5 percent from October, mainly driven by the sharp fall in oil prices.

The price index for imports was down 2.3 percent from a year ago, and 4.2 percent in five months, mainly due to lower oil prices.

Excluding fuel, import prices fell 0.2 percent in the month, the third consecutive monthly fall, but year-on-year were flat.

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