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Business briefs: U.S. retail sales fell in September

U.S. retail sales fell in September

WASHINGTON -- U.S. retail sales retreated in September as purchases of autos, gasoline, furniture and clothing slowed, a sign that recent job gains have yet to significantly boost consumer spending.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that seasonally adjusted retail sales dropped 0.3 percent from the previous month. Sales have risen 4.3 percent in the past 12 months, slightly below their historical pace.

Auto sales fell 0.8 percent in September, after revving up 10.4 percent in August.

Dealers sold cars and trucks at an annual pace of 16.43 million vehicles last month, down from a rate of 17.5 million in August, according to automakers. While auto sales have helped drive economic growth for much of the year, the recent slip was enough to dent overall retail sales in September.

Budget deficit drops to $483B, lowest since '08

WASHINGTON -- The deficit for the just completed 2014 budget year was $483 billion, the lowest of President Barack Obama's six years in office, the U.S. government reported Wednesday.

It's the lowest since 2008 and, when measured against the size of the economy, is below the average deficits of the past 40 years. The deficit equaled 2.8 percent of gross domestic product, which is the economy's total output of goods and services.

By comparison, the deficit for 2013 was $680 billion, or 4.1 percent of GDP.

Here's an easier way to understand why the new numbers are good news: The government borrows 14 cents for every dollar it spends; six years ago, it was 40 cents.

Survey finds moderate growth nationwide

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. economy was strengthening in most regions of the country in September to early October, helped by gains in consumer spending, manufacturing and commercial construction, according to the Federal Reserve's latest survey of business conditions.

The Fed report released Wednesday said six of its 12 regions -- Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas and San Francisco -- reported "moderate" growth. Five others described growth as "modest," and one -- Boston -- described activity as mixed.

The report depicted an economy moving ahead steadily but not at a pace that would prompt the Fed to accelerate its timetable for raising interest rates. The survey, known as the Beige Book, is based on anecdotal reports from businesses and will be considered with other data when Fed policymakers meet Oct. 28-29.

Herald wire reports

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