Fresh data suggests recession abating

Financial Crisis Posted on

Sales at U.S. retailers rose in May and the number of workers filing new applications for jobless benefits fell for a fourth straight week last week, according to official data on Thursday that suggested the recession was abating.

The Commerce Department said total retail sales rose 0.5 percent, the first advance in three months, lifted by strong gasoline and building material receipts. Sales fell 0.2 percent in April.

A separate report from the Labor Department showed the number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless aid fell 24,000 to 601,000 in the week ended June 6, the lowest since January 24.

"It looks like we are turning the corner. There is pretty clear evidence that the worst of the labor downturn has passed, but we still expect more job losses," said Zach Pandl an economist at Nomura Securities International in New York.

The reports bolstered the argument that the economy's severe recession was close to hitting a bottom, with growth likely to return in the second half of the year.

The sales report raised optimism that consumer spending would probably be flat to modestly lower in the second quarter, instead of falling sharply as expected by most analysts.

Spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, rose 1.5 percent in the January-March period, after a 4.3 percent dive in the fourth quarter.

Still, retail sales were partly boosted by increases in gasoline prices, which could crimp consumers' wallets.

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