US Fed to continue bond buying despite positive economic data

STRONGER-than-expected US retail sales in November and rising producer prices have added to evidence that its economic recovery is gathering pace in the fourth quarter.

But the Federal Reserve said the improvement was still too slow to bring down unemployment and confirmed it would still buy $600bn (£380bn) in bonds to stimulate growth and create jobs.

The US Commerce Department said total retail sales increased 0.8 per cent in November, advancing for a fifth straight month, as consumers shook off unemployment fears to hit the shops at the start of the holiday season.

Sales were up 7.7 per cent compared to November last year, and receipts at petrol stations also surged.

Separately, producer prices increased 0.8 per cent last month, the Labour Department said, above forecasts for a 0.6 per cent gain.

Core wholesale prices, which exclude volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.3 per cent.

But the Fed’s latest statement contained little acknowledgment of this uptick in the data and instead focused squarely on high unemployment.

It described the economy’s expansion as “continuing,” a modest upgrade from its November description of “slow”.

Its steady emphasis on economic weakness surprised some analysts who expected clearer acknowledgment of recent signs the recovery has gained momentum.

Excluding autos, sales rose 1.2 per cent in November, the largest gain since March and exceeding economists' expectations for a 0.6 per cent gain.

Sales for October were also revised up, to 1.7 per cent from a previously reported 1.2 per cent gain.