Slow growth for American retail sector

Julian Harris
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RETAIL sales in the US rose for the ninth straight month in March but at a weaker rate than expected, it was revealed yesterday.

On a mixed day of news for the US economy, sales were announced at 0.4 per cent up on February, largely driven by higher petrol prices.

Receipts at petrol stations, which accounted for about 10.7 per cent of retail sales last month, increased 2.6 per cent after rising 2.4 per cent in February.

However, many other components also held up, boosting the outlook for the US high street, ING’s Rob Carnell said:“Taken together, this is a heartening set of numbers.”

In another positive data release, job openings in the US for February were said to have risen at the sharpest rate since December 2004, rising by 352,000 to 3.09m.

Business inventories increased in February, a separate survey by the Commerce Department showed – edging up by 0.5 per cent to $1.46 trillion.

The ailing US house sector, meanwhile, shows little sign of recovery. The Mortgage Bankers Association said its index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, fell 6.7 per cent in the week ending 8 April.

Meanwhile, in its Beige Book assessment, the Federal Reserve said the US economy continued to improve over the past month on gains in manufacturing but firms were feeling the effects of higher energy and raw material costs.