Posted tagged ‘Commerce Department’

Retail Sales in the US…Rise?

February 12, 2009

U.S. retail sales jumped 1 percent in January, reversing a six-month declining trend and defying economists’ expectations by posting the biggest increase in 14 months.

From the Associated Press:

The data are a glimmer of hope for a recession-hit economy, but higher gasoline prices and sales, and buyers snapping up other items on post-holiday discounts, appeared to aid last month’s results. Analysts cautioned that the relief is unlikely to last.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that January retail sales rose 1 percent from December after having fallen for six straight months. Wall Street economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected January sales to show a drop of 0.8 percent. They plunged a revised lower 3 percent in December, which marked the weakest holiday selling season since at least 1969.

“This is a big surprise, though the net rise in sales is less impressive than it looks because (December and November) were revised down by 0.3 percent each,” Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a research note. “The headline relief today is welcome but it is unlikely to last.”

The January report shows strong increases in sales of automobiles and in general merchandise stores — the “big box” outlets — though sales by department stores, carrying fewer varieties of items, posted a decline. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, is an example of a discounter that has benefited from strapped consumers’ focus on necessities like groceries and on bargains for other items.

Bill Richardson Will Not Be Commerce Secretary

January 4, 2009

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is withdrawing his nomination to be commerce secretary, he and President-elect Barack Obama said in statements earlier today.

From Reuters:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on Sunday withdrew as U.S. President-elect Barack Obama‘s nominee for commerce secretary, becoming the first casualty among Obama’s picks for his Cabinet.

One of the country’s most prominent Hispanic politicians, Richardson said he was dropping out because of an investigation into a company that has done business with New Mexico’s state government.

Obama said in a statement that he had accepted Richardson’s withdrawal with “deep regret.” Richardson, 61, denied any wrongdoing but feared a lengthy investigation would delay his confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Richardson becomes the first of Obama’s cabinet choices to withdraw. The Senate had been expected to easily confirm his appointment. Obama is scheduled to take office on January 20.

Richardson, 61, served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary in the Clinton administration and is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

He became an early Obama supporter after dropping his own presidential ambitions.

“Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact. But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process,” Richardson said in a statement released by the Obama transition team.

“It is also because of that sense of urgency about the work of the Commerce Department that I have asked the President-elect not to move forward with my nomination at this time. I do so with great sorrow. But a pending investigation of a company that has done business with New Mexico state government promises to extend for several weeks or, perhaps, even months,” Richardson added in the statement.

Economy Is Shrinking and Home Prices Continue to Drop

November 25, 2008

The economy shrank more than expected in the third quarter and home prices fell to levels not seen since early 2004 as the government announced new plans to provide $800 billion to boost consumer spending and home buying. Things keep looking bleaker and bleaker each day for the US economy. When will we hit rock bottom?

From the Associated Press:

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said key markets for consumer debt such as credit cards, auto and student loans essentially came to a halt in October, and that the new programs are aimed to get lending back to more normal levels.

Meanwhile, data released Tuesday provided further proof the country is almost certainly in the throes of a painful recession.

The Commerce Department’s updated reading on the economy’s performance showed gross domestic product shrank at a 0.5 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter, weaker than the 0.3 percent rate of decline first estimated a month ago, and the worst showing since the third quarter of 2001.

GDP measures the value of all goods and services produced within the U.S. and is considered the best barometer of the country’s economic fitness.

Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller national home price index released Tuesday tumbled a record 16.6 percent during the quarter from the same period a year ago. Prices are at levels not seen since the first quarter of 2004.

In an effort to increase the availability of home loans to borrowers, the Federal Reserve said it will purchase up to $100 billion in direct obligations from mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as the Federal Home Loan Banks. The Fed also will purchase another $500 billion in mortgage-backed securities, pools of mortgages that are bundled together and sold to investors.

The $600 billion effort on mortgages came as the Fed also unveiled a new program to help unfreeze the market that backs consumer debt such as credit cards, auto and student loans.