Americans heartened by an improving job market flocked to shopping malls and auto showrooms in March, raising the odds of a durable economic recovery.
Retail sales increased 1.6 percent last month, more than anticipated and the biggest gain in four months, according to figures from the Commerce Department issued today in Washington. Another report showed consumer prices rose 0.1 percent.
Stocks climbed for a fifth day after the reports signaled the expansion is broadening without stoking inflation, and results at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Intel Corp. beat estimates. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told lawmakers today the world’s largest economy still faces “significant restraints,” indicating policy makers will keep interest rates low in coming months.
“What we’re seeing now is the consumer take part in the recovery,” said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York. “The Fed’s not taking the punch bowl away quite yet,” because inflation is “very tame,” he said.
In testimony before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, Bernanke said recent data indicated a “moderate economic recovery in coming quarters,” while weak construction and still-high unemployment remained impediments to faster growth.
The complete report is here. There are some really good numbers, such as
Auto sales up 6.7%
Furniture/home furnishings: +1.5%
Building materials up 3.1%
Clothing up 2.3%
The one bid negative was electronic/appliance stores which were down 1.3%.
But, this was a very good report.