A strong rise in retail sales and consumer prices in January point to an acceleration in economic growth in the first quarter. Fred Katayama reports.
More signs of an improving economy: firm demand for electronics goods boosted U.S. retail sales more than expected in January, and consumer prices posted their biggest increase in nearly four years. Oxford Economics' chief U.S. economist Gregory Daco: SOUNDBITE: GREGORY DACO, CHIEF U.S. ECONOMIST, OXFORD ECONOMICS, (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Both of these indicators point to solid consumer spending. So, what we're seeing right now is an environment in which inflation is rising, but, so far, it hasn't eaten too much into the consumer's real disposable income and hasn't constrained them in terms of spending." The broad sales increase even extended to clothing and department stores, which recently had been undercut by online retailers like Amazon. The strong 0.4 percent increase in overall retail sales supports views that economic growth will speed up in the first quarter. Price increases in gas, apparel and vehicles drove the Consumer Price Index up 0.6 percent. Firming inflation, a tighter job market, and increased domestic demand could allow the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at least twice this year.