On a positive note, retail sales rose in November by the most in eight months, as an increase in hiring and lower gas prices are giving households money to spend. Auto sales rose 1.7%, building material and garden equipment sales rose 1.4%, and internet sales gained 1%.
Also on the upside, small business sentiment rose to a seven-year high in November. The NFIB index rose to 98.1 – the highest level since February 2007. The increase was led by a 16-point jump in the outlook over the next six months.
Consumer sentiment rose to near an eight-year high, as the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s index rose to 93.8 – the highest reading since January 2007. The survey’s measures of consumer expectations and current economic conditions both rose to the best level since early 2007.
After last week’s upbeat jobs report, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed that the number of open jobs increased slightly to 4.83 million – the second-highest level in 14 years (just below the August total, which was the highest since 2000). That translates to about 1.9 unemployed people per open job…the narrowest ratio since February 2008.
Producer prices fell .2% in November, the second decline in the last three months, led by falling energy prices. Excluding energy, food and trade services, producer inflation was flat.