Retail sales surge in July
A small sliver of good news; retail sales, flat for the past quarter, increased by the most since last March.
Sales climbed 0.5 percent, in line with analyst forecasts and following an upwardly revised 0.3 percent gain in June, according to Commerce Department data released on Friday.
Consumer spending accounts for two thirds of U.S. economic activity, and the data indicates the third quarter was off to a decent start.
Excluding autos, sales increased 0.5 percent, well above forecasts for a 0.2 percent gain. The figures were bolstered by a 1.6 percent jump in gasoline station sales, in part reflecting the higher cost of fuel.
"When you look at the overall data that's been coming out, it's really a mixed bag, and this shows that the economy is not falling off its wheels," said Rudy Narvas, senior economist at Societe Generale in New York.
Economic growth was anemic in the first half of the year and unemployment remained elevated, raising worries that the recovery might again falter and triggering speculation that the Federal Reserve might need to resort to additional monetary easing.
We had this same spurt in the first quarter. It proved illusory when economic activity slowed to a crawl. Let's hope that this is the start of some real strength in the economy so that some of the unemployed can get back to work.