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Economic Update - March 21, 2011

posted Mar 21, 2011, 5:38 PM by Svetlana Raleigh

Retail sales rose 0.1% for the week ending March 12, according to the ICSC-Goldman Sachs index. On a year-over-year basis, retailers saw sales increase 3.1%.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo housing market index rose one point in March to 17. An index reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted composite index of mortgage applications for the week ending March 11 fell 0.7%. Refinancing applications increased 0.9%. Purchase volume fell 4%.

The combined construction of new single-family homes and apartments in February fell 22.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 479,000 units. Single-family starts decreased 11.8%. Multifamily starts dropped 46.1%. Applications for new building permits, seen as an indicator of future activity, fell 8.2% to an annual rate of 517,000 units.

The producer price index, which tracks wholesale price inflation, rose 1.6% in February after a revised 0.7% increase in January. Core prices — excluding food and fuel — rose 0.2% in February.

Consumer prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.5% in February, following a 0.4% increase in January. For the year, seasonally adjusted consumer prices are up 2.2%.

Industrial production at the nation's factories, mines and utilities fell 0.1% in February, following a revised 0.3% increase in January. Compared to a year ago, industrial production is up 5.6%. Capacity utilization was 76.3% in February.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 16,000 to 385,000 for the week ending March 12. Continuing claims for the week ending March 5 fell by 80,000 to 3.7 million.