Economic Update, March 19, 2012
Provided courtesy of Marie Richarz, Prospect Mortgage
Retail sales rose 1.1% to $407.8 billion in February, the largest gain in five months. This follows an upwardly revised 0.6% increase in January. On a year-over-year basis, retail sales increased 6.5%.
Total business inventories rose 0.7% in January to $1.569 trillion, up 7.6% from a year ago. Total business sales increased 0.4% to $1.237 trillion in January, up 7.2% from a year ago. The total business inventories/sales ratio in January was 1.27.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted composite index of mortgage applications for the week ending March 9 fell 2.4%. Refinancing applications decreased 4.1%. Purchase volume rose 4.4%.
The producer price index, which tracks wholesale price inflation, rose 0.4% in February after increasing 0.1% in January. For the year, seasonally adjusted wholesale prices are up 3.3%. Core prices — excluding food and fuel — fell 0.2% in February.
Consumer prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.4% in February, following a 0.2% gain in January. For the year, consumer prices are up 2.9%. Consumer prices at the core rate — excluding volatile food and energy prices — were up 0.1% in February.
Industrial production at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities was unchanged in February after advancing 0.4% in January. Compared to a year ago, industrial production is up 4%. Capacity utilization edged down to 78.7% in February.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending March 10 fell by 14,000 to 351,000. Continuing claims for the week ending March 3 fell by 81,000 to 3.343 million, the lowest level since August 2008.
Upcoming on the economic calendar are reports on housing starts on March 20, existing home sales on March 21 and new home sales on March 23.