US retail sales hit record in March

Record high retail sales in March and a sharp decline in US jobless claims show a strong positive momentum from mass vaccinations in the country, lower quarantine restrictions and government incentives with direct payments of $ 1,400 to the public.

Retail sales in the US showed a strong jump in growth of 9.8% in March, while economists had expected growth of 5.9%. This is the best figure since the start of the pandemic and contrasts with a 2.7% decline in February. Growth in retail sales over the past 12 months (through the end of March) amounted to a record 27.7%.

Market analysts point to the positive impact of the widespread vaccination of the US population against COVID-19, the removal of most quarantine restrictions, while the warm weather also helped restore retail sales in the restaurant business and sales of clothing. Government incentives: Direct payments of $ 1400 and an additional $ 300 per week to unemployment benefits are also seen as positively affecting sales of electronics and other goods.

The largest sales growth in the US last month came from apparel stores, with cumulative industry sales up 18.3%.

Sales in car dealerships were record-breaking – an increase of 15.1%. Sales in restaurants and bars rose 13.4%, although still 1.8% lower compared to March 2020.

While Americans increased their purchases in electronics and home appliances stores by 10.5%, as well as by 5.9% in furniture, sales in building materials stores fell 12.1%.

Another positive piece of news for the US economy was the Labor Department’s weekly report on Thursday. During the week to April 10, the number of initially filed applications for unemployment benefits in the United States fell sharply to 576 thousand compared to 769 thousand in the previous week. This is the lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic, below economists’ expectations of 700 thousand. The first chart shows the dynamics of changes in the number of applications since January 2021, and the second – from the beginning of 2020.

Against the background of improving economic prospects, both international organizations and the US Central Bank, as well as experts from major banks, are increasing their forecasts for US GDP this year.

Economists at Morgan Stanley (MS) on Thursday raised their estimate of US GDP growth in the first quarter by 100 basis points to 9.7% from the same period a year earlier. According to government data, the growth rate of US GDP in the fourth quarter was 4.3%.

Against the backdrop of positive reports from the US economy, as well as strong performance by US banks, which reported their financial results for the first three months of 2021 on Wednesday and Thursday, major US indices closed with significant gains on Thursday.

The S&P 500 was up 1.1% on Thursday, expanding its gains over the past three months to 9.46%, the Dow Jones rose 0.9% and 9.6% over the same periods, and the Nasdaq Composite rose 1.3% and 6.9% respectively.

Most economists and analysts expect the US economic and labor market recovery to continue to pick up, but some remain concerned about how long the Fed will keep rates at zero.

“Fed officials have so far said they expect this growth in consumer demand to be fleeting and will not consider policy changes until the labor market reaches full employment and price levels rise at a steady pace,” said Chris Lowe. , chief economist at FHN Financial. “Their determination will be tested in the next couple of months.”

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