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U.S. June retail sales surge 4.1 percent

A welcome trio of factors — perkier job prospects, summer temperatures and more affordable prices — helped retail sales in June beat expectations.

Same-store sales at shops open at least a year — a measure that strips out the volatility of openings and closings — rose 4.1 percent last month from the same period a year earlier, according to Retail Metrics.

The surge is the largest since sales swelled 5.1 percent in January. Retailers had struggled through the spring as they dealt with storms and chilly temperatures and "an economic soft patch," said the group's president, Ken Perkins.

June results beat forecasts of a 3.7 percent boost and also outperformed the 3.8 percent increase recorded in May and the 0.3 percent upswing in June 2012, he said.

The cause, according to Perkins: "An improving labor market coupled with falling gas prices during the month, seasonably warmer temperatures that drove summer clearance, rising home prices and generally better macroeconomic conditions."

Stein Mart said sales were up 6.5 percent due to strength in linens, ladies' casual sportswear and women's boutique goods. Menswear and female special sizes were less impressive.

The retailer, which has 262 stores, said Florida and other gulf states drew high revenue.

A separate account of retail sales from Thomson Reuters also showed companies beating Wall Street forecasts. Predictions of a 3.8 percent sales increase when including drugstores and a 4.8 percent surge without them proved inaccurate.

Thomson Reuters calculated that the 11 retailers in its roundup enjoyed a 4.2 percent uptick with drugstores and a 5 percent rise without.

Weekly jobless claims increase

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits rose 16,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, although the level remains consistent with steady hiring. The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average increased 6,000 to 351,750. For the second quarter, applications averaged 346,000 a week, their lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2007, when the Great Recession began.

Associated Press

U.S. June retail sales surge 4.1 percent 07/11/13 [Last modified: Thursday, July 11, 2013 7:26pm]
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