New retail sales and housing data released by the government for January confirmed the recovery is rolling along, on the cusp of the expected enactment of a huge new stimulus and relief package. The stock market declined for the week and the U.S. landed a new robotic rover on Mars on Thursday, to study whether the barren red planet was ever home to life. This week’s financial news highlights the uneven pace of progress in our world.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported an unexpected surge in retail sales in January.
January’s retail sales soared +5.3% from December. Excluding gasoline -- because its price is so volatile that it often distorts the trend – retail sales soared +8.6%.
Retail sales account for 30% of the U.S. economy.
Housing starts, another influential fundamental of economic growth, fell slightly in January from December, but remained at a strong level. In addition, housing permits – an indicator of what’s ahead – were very strong, at 1.88 million. The U.S. needs about 1.7 million housing starts annually to keep up with population growth and immigration.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index closed Friday at 3,906.71, a fractional decline of -0.19% from Thursday and -0.71% from last week’s closing price. The S&P 500, a proxy for the growth of the world’s largest economy, is worth +54.3% more than at the Coronavirus bear-market low of March 23, 2020.
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