This Week's Economic Roundup
Worries over inflation and the housing market had consumers in a gloomier mood, even as they kept shopping. Here's a look at this week's economic developments and how they may impact your business.
Consumer Mood Down, Sales Up
Despite lower gas prices, consumers' outlook on the economy soured in November, the University of Michigan reported on Thursday.
A preliminary reading of the university's monthly consumer sentiment index, based on a survey of 500 households nationwide, was down 1.3 points from October to 92.3, the report said.
Both the index of current conditions and expectations for the months ahead were lower in November, the report said.
Inflation and home price expectations were cited for declines.
Still, the bleaker outlook didn't keep shoppers from stores, the International Council of Shopping Centers and UBS reported on Tuesday.
Chain-store sales rose by 1 percent in the first week of November, compared to the previous week, the report said.
On a year-to-year basis, sales have grown by 2.3 percent, the report said.
Michael Niemira, the group's chief economist, called the early gains a "solid start for retail sales" heading into the holiday shopping season.
Wholesale Inventories Rising
Amid declining sales, inventories at the nation's merchant wholesalers rose by 0.8 percent in September, the highest level in more than a year, the Commerce Department reported on Thursday.
Wholesale sales were down 1.2 percent to $330.2 billion on the month, yet up by 8.1 percent from a year ago, the report said.
Slower sales pushed the inventory to sales ratio up to 1.18, compared to 1.16 in September 2005, the report said.
Trade Gap Narrows
Falling oil prices and rising U.S. exports shrunk the trade gap by 6.8 percent in September, the Commerce Department reported on Thursday.
The trade deficit now stands at $64.3 billion, compared to a record-high $69 billion in August, the report said.
Jobless Claims Down
New claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 20,000 to 308,000 in the week ending Nov. 4, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.
The previous week there were 2.448 million people drawing unemployment benefits, a 0.1 percent increase in the seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate to 1.9 percent, the report said.
The biggest declines in new claims came from Michigan, Illinois, and Florida, with the biggest increases were in California, Missouri, and Kentucky, the report said.