Economic News in Review Greenville SC
Here is last week’s Economic News in Review Greenville SC.
Retail sales were flat, while lay-offs remained at historic lows, and wholesale prices saw nearly across-the-board declines, especially where gasoline prices were concerned.
Retail sales remained flat in April, totaling $436.8 billion, which was virtually unchanged from the previous month, according to last week’s report from the Census Bureau. In comparison to last year, April was just 0.9 percent higher than April 2014.
Many economists were at a loss to determine the exact cause for such flat sales. Lingering cold weather could have had some impact, as would the delays in supply caused by West Coast port strikes, but pinpointing why retail sales remained mediocre proved difficult for the experts.
“We remain puzzled by the softness in retail sales given the gains in employment, real incomes from lower energy prices, and wealth, but we continue to look for consumer spending to pick up this year,” RDQ Economics chief economist in John Ryding told the Reuters news service.
Looking at April, notable retail segments for the month were health and personal care sales, which were up 0.8 percent; sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores, which saw 0.8 percent growth; and sales at food service and drinking establishments, which increased 0.7 percent.
Initial Jobless Claims
First-time claims for unemployment benefits filed by the newly unemployed during the week ending May 9 dipped to 264,000, a decline of 1,000 claims from the preceding week’s level of 265,000 claims, the Employment and Training Administration reported last week. The total, which remained near historic lows, was a far cry from analyst expectations of an increase to 275,000 claims.
Similarly, the four-week moving average, considered a more reliable measure of lay-off activity, dropped to 271,750 claims, a decrease of 7,750 claims from the prior week’s average of 279,500. This marked the lowest level for the four-week average since April 22, 2000’s total of 266,750.
“The signs are widespread and clear that labor markets are tightening noticeably,” Amherst Pierpont Securities chief economist Stephen Stanley wrote in a statement to clients.
Producer Price Index
Wholesale prices fell in April, with the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand (i.e., producer prices before being sold to consumers) dropping 0.4 percent during the month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week.
Energy was a central influencer of the PPI, and in particular, petroleum prices. The per-barrel price of crude oil has fallen from summertime high of more than $100 and is currently hovering at roughly $60, which is having an impact on the wholesale market. Case in point: more than 30 percent of April’s decline in prices for final demand goods could be chalked up to a 4.7-percent decrease in the gasoline index. All in all, energy prices fell 2.9 percent in April.
Also notable were food prices, which fell 0.9 percent, and trade service sales, which were down 0.8 percent.
“This report showed broad-based softness in prices across categories, with food and energy the main drivers of the decline, but the core components were down as well,” Barclays economist Blerina Uruci told the Wall Street Journal.
Economic News in Review Greenville SC
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