US high street sales open year ahead of expectations

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The Independent Online

Sales on America’s high streets opened the year with a better than expected bounce, according to official figures released yesterday

Seasonally adjusted retail sales grew 0.5 per cent to $355.8bn in January, while December sales were revised upwards to show a fall of 0.1 per cent rather than 0.3 per cent.

The figure for January was better than the 0.3 per cent rise that economists had forecast and further evidence of America’s economic fight back was provided by November’s sales which were revised up to show an increase 2 per cent from 1.8 per cent.

Shoppers focussed their attention on big general stores such as WallMart while the internet continued to grow as did sports good stores, restaurants and bars.

Car sales, however, were flat as the US scrappage scheme came to an end.

And economists fear that February’s numbers could prove to be weak with the ongoing Toyota recall hitting the motor trade combined with heavy snowfalls in parts of the US which have kept shoppers in their homes. .

The White House predicted that 95,900 new jobs will be created every month this year, but that would not be enough to seriously ease the country’s high unemployment rate of 9.7 per cent.

As in Britain, Americans who do have jobs are putting more cash aside than before the recession, with the savings rate – negative before the recession – expected to stabilise at 4 to 7 per cent.

That shows that while consumers are helping the US recovery, they will not be the fuel for a strong bounceback.