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US: Harsh winter blamed for mixed economic data
March 15, 2014, 11:14 am

Analysts are saying that a harsh winter this year could have accounted for the sudden drop in consumer confidence in March.

A Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan report shows that the drop to 79.9 from 81.6 on its consumer confidence index marks the lowest level in four months.

But consumer spending may yet get a uplift as the annual growth rate of average hourly earnings rose in February to 2.2 per cent, up from 2 per cent in January, according to Paul Dales, senior US economist at Capital Economics, as reported by CBS News.

According to the US Commerce Department, retail sales rose 0.3 per cent in February.

In December and January, spending fell by 0.3 per cent 0.6 per cent, respectively.

The mixed bag of economic data comes a week after a US Department of Labor report has showed that despite the addition of 175,000 jobs to the economy in February, the actual number of people who have been out of work for at least six months rose by 203,000.

And while the Department increased its estimate of job creation last month, the overall unemployment rate increased from 6.6 to 6.7 per cent.

The latest figures appeared to beat analyst expectations that the report would show that the economy added 149,000 jobs last month, and that the unemployment rate would remain at 6.6 per cent, or fall to 6.5 per cent.

But year-on-year, the job creation figures were lower; at this time in 2013 the economy had added 190,000 jobs. Year-on-year retail sales data shows a 1.5 per cent increase, however.

Most analysts agree with a Federal Reserve report last month which indicated that market results appear to have been impacted by heavy snowfall and below-average winter temperatures in much of the continental US and Canada.

Source: Agencies