US retail sales jump as confidence returns
AMERICANS heartened by an improving jobs market flocked to shopping malls and car showrooms in March, raising the prospect of a durable economic recovery.
Retail sales increased 1.6pc last month, which was more than had been anticipated and the biggest gain in four months, according to figures released yesterday by the Commerce Department in Washington.
Another report showed that consumer prices rose 0.1pc.
However, the chairman of the Fed, Ben Bernanke, told the joint economic committee of Congress that the US economy still faced "significant restraints" -- indicating that policymakers will keep interest rates low in the months ahead.
He said recent data indicated a "moderate economic recovery in coming quarters" while weak construction and still-high unemployment remained impediments to faster growth.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.6pc. The index has advanced in eight of the past nine trading sessions.
The gain in consumer prices matched the median forecast of economists surveyed. Excluding food and energy, so-called core costs were unchanged in March, which was less than analysts had anticipated.
Compared with March 2009, the core index rose by 1.1pc.
"Inflation as a concern is relegated to the distant future," said Guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia, adding: "It gives the Fed the flexibility to keep rates low for a while."
Retail sales, excluding autos, rose by 0.6pc, surpassing the 0.5pc increase projected by the median estimate of economists surveyed.