On the upside, the number of Americans filing for unemployment last week ticked up by 2,000 – holding near pre-recession levels, after reaching the lowest level in almost seven years the week prior.
US retail sales posted their biggest gain in 1-1/2 years in March, another signal that the weather-induced lull in the economy has thawed. Sales rose 1.1% – the largest increase since September 2012, with receipts up in almost all categories.
US consumer prices rose marginally in March, with the consumer price index increasing .2%, showing a lack of inflationary pressure.
Home construction in the US picked up modestly in March as the frigid winter weather gave way. Builders started work on 946,000 homes – a 2.8% increase over the month prior. On a downbeat note, applications for building permits – a gauge of future activity – dropped 2.4%.
Meanwhile, the NAHB housing market index, a measure of homebuilders’ confidence, rose modestly to 47 in April, though still holding at a low level for the third straight month.
In her first major speech on monetary policy, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said on Wednesday that the central banks’ policies “must respond to significant unexpected twist and turns the economy may make”.