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This Week's Economic Roundup

Bad weather cuts into retail sales; gas prices hit record high.
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Record-high gas prices continue to cut into consumer spending, even as manufacturers are seeing a rise in orders for computers, electronics and other products. Here's a look at this week's economic developments and how they may affect your business.

Retail Sales Down
Higher gas prices and bad weather kept shoppers away from stores last week, the International Council of Shopping Centers and UBS Securities reported Tuesday. For the week ending May 19, same-store sales fell by 1.5 percent from the previous week, while year-over-year growth dropped a half point to 1.9 percent.

"Consumers faced strong headwinds over the last week," Michael Neimira, the group's chief economist, said in a statement. Neimira said unseasonably cool temperature and record-high gas prices cut into consumers' discretionary spending.

Durable Goods Orders Up
New orders for computers, electronics, and other durable good rose by 0.6 percent in April to $217.9 billion, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Excluding transportation, new orders for durable goods rose 1.5 percent, the report said. Fabricated metal products saw the biggest increases, with new orders up by 3.8 percent to $26.5 billion.

The gains marked the fifth increase in orders over the past six months, and included ongoing increases in both shipments and inventories.

New Home Sales Rebound
Sales of new single-family homes jumped 16.2 percent last month to an annual rate of 981,000, the sharpest monthly gains in over a decade, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Despite the increases, sales were 10.6 percent below the same period last year.

The median sales price for new homes in April was $229,100, matching the average sales price. By month's end, there were 538,000 new homes left on the market, enough for a 6.5 month’s supply at the current sales rate, the report said.

Gas Price Keep Rising
Gas prices continued climbing this week, rising by 11.5 cents to a record $3.218 per gallon as of May 21, the Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday.

Prices are now 32.6 cents higher than last year. Aside from the West Coast, higher prices were reported across the country, including a 17.7 cent gain in the Gulf Coast region to $3.092 per gallon. Despite a 1.4 cent decrease in California this week, gas prices there remain the highest in any region at $3.436 per gallon.

Jobless Claims Rise
The number of new claims for unemployment benefits rose by 15,000 last week to 311,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

As of May 12, the advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate stood at 1.9 percent, unchanged from the previous week, with roughly 2.529 million people filing jobless claims.

The largest gains in new claims last week were in Mississippi, Florida, and Virginia, while the largest decreases were in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and California.

Last updated: May 24, 2007




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