Lift in US manufacturing and retail sales boost the economy

Ben Southwood
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US RETAIL sales continued their steady climb in the first month of 2013, according to data out yesterday.

Like-for-like retail and food services sales climbed 0.1 per cent between December and January to cap off a 4.4 per cent improvement over the year, the US Census Bureau said. Looking at the three months ending with January gave the same picture of steady but substantial improvement, with firms shifting 4.5 per cent more than the same period a year before.

Car sellers did particular well, enjoying a 9.4 per cent surge in sales over the year. Non-store retailers – catalogues and the internet – managed a 15.7 per cent boost over the year, the Census Bureau said.

Manufacturers also enjoyed an improvement in their business environment, according to separate figures from the Census Bureau. Their sales edged up 0.3 per cent between November and December last year, again capping off a more substantial annual increase of 3.6 per cent.

Firms also built up their inventories slightly – by 0.1 per cent over the month, contributing to the overall 5.1 per cent extra manufacturers had stored compared to December 2011.

But the data was not entirely positive. The retail sales bump was the smallest in three months and came as payroll taxes reverted to higher rates. And a third data release, from the Labor Department, showed that import prices were driven up 0.6 per cent in January by rising oil prices, further impacting on tight consumer budgets.