US consumer confidence and sales growth sluggish

Reuters, WASHINGTON

Sun, Sep 15, 2013 - Page 13

US consumer confidence ebbed early this month and retail sales advanced just slightly last month, the latest indications of a lack of momentum in the economy.

The sluggish pace of activity was underscored by another report on Friday showing an energy-led rise in wholesale prices last month, but subdued underlying inflation pressures.

The soft data, however, was unlikely to deter the Federal Reserve from cutting its massive bond-buying program as early as next week, analysts said.

“I don’t think that’s a red flag for the Fed. Overall the data picture is mixed and supports our view that it will be a light taper,” a US economist at Standard Chartered Bank in New York Thomas Costerg said.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s index of consumer sentiment fell 5.3 points to 76.8 early this month, the lowest since April.

Economists pointed to worries over high interest rates and a possible US military strike on Syria.

Borrowing costs have risen sharply in recent months in anticipation of the Federal Reserve scaling back its monthly bond purchases.

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed retail sales rose 0.2 percent last month as Americans bought automobiles and other long-lasting goods like furniture, electronics and appliances.

However, those purchases appeared to draw spending power away from other areas and receipts for clothing, building materials and sporting goods all fell.