In the News
Retail sales rose 1.1% to $421.4 billion in February. This follows a 0.2% increase in January. Compared to February 2012, retail sales have increased 4.6%.
Consumer prices rose 0.7% in February, following a flat reading in January. Compared to February 2012, consumer prices have risen 2%. Consumer prices at the core rate — excluding volatile food and energy prices — were up 0.2% in February.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted composite index of mortgage applications for the week ending March 8 fell 4.7%. Purchase volume fell 3%. Refinancing applications decreased 5%.
Total business inventories rose 1% in January to $1.642 trillion, up 5.6% from a year ago. Total business sales decreased 0.3% to $1.268 trillion in January, up 2.9% from a year ago. The total business inventories/sales ratio in January was 1.29.
The producer price index, which tracks wholesale price inflation, rose 0.7% in February, following a 0.2% increase in January. On a year-over-year basis, wholesale prices were up 1.7% in February. Core prices — excluding food and fuel — rose 0.2% in February.
Industrial production at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities rose 0.7% in February after a flat reading in January. Compared to February 2012, industrial production has increased 2.5%. Capacity utilization rose to 79.6% in February from 79.2% in January.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending March 9 fell by 10,000 to 332,000, the lowest level since January 2008. Continuing claims for the week ending March 2 fell by 89,000 to 3.024 million. The less volatile four-week average of claims for unemployment benefits was 346,750.
Upcoming on the economic calendar are reports on the housing market index on March 18, housing starts on March 19 and existing home sales on March 21.