US retail sales decline in July but jobless claims fall sharply

US RETAILERS reported their eleventh straight month of sales declines for July yesterday, but data showed that jobless claims fell last week, fanning hopes that the job market may be stabilising.<br /><br />July sales fell 5.1 per cent from a year earlier, compared with June&rsquo;s 4.9 per cent decline.<br /><br />&ldquo;You still have a picture of the consumer remaining under pressure and having fewer dollars to spend,&rdquo; said Michael Dart, senior partner at Kurt Salmon Associates.<br /><br />But chains including Macy&rsquo;s and Gap gave upbeat profit forecasts as they discounted less merchandise and cut costs to improve margins.<br /><br />Meanwhile, the number of laid-off US workers submitting new claims for jobless benefits fell sharply last week, buoying hopes the fragile job market was on the mend and that the broader economy was stabilising.<br /><br />The Labour Department said initial claims for state unemployment insurance fell 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 550,000 in the week ended 1 August. The data came just a day after news that demand for US factory goods unexpectedly rose in June.<br /><br />In further signs that a recovery might be nearing, data out yesterday showed that German manufacturing orders rose at their fastest pace in two years in June.<br />