U.S. retail sales rebound from winter chill, jobless claims fall

Thu Mar 13, 2014 1:10pm EDT
 
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By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. retail sales rebounded in February and new filings for jobless benefits hit a fresh three-month low last week, suggesting the economy was regaining strength after an abrupt slowdown caused by severe weather.

The data on Thursday reinforced expectations of a pick-up in economic activity and should encourage the Federal Reserve to continue scaling back its massive monetary stimulus.

"The economy seems to be rebounding from a winter-related slump," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York. "We expect the Fed will stay the course with its exit strategy."

Retail sales increased 0.3 percent last month, with receipts rising in most categories, the Commerce Department said. The gain followed a 0.6 percent drop in January and ended two straight months of declines.

An unusually cold and snowy winter disrupted economic activity at the end of 2013 and the beginning of this year, holding back job growth and weighing on industrial production.

Economists had expected only a 0.2 percent increase in retail sales in February after snow and ice blanketed densely populated regions during the first half of the month.

"The consumer appears to be back in the game," said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York.

"We see this as further confirmation that the underlying momentum in the economy remains quite favorable."   Continued...

 
Job seekers stand in line to meet with prospective employers at a career fair in New York City, October 24, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar