Stocks edge lower…Retail sales soar after stimulus

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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are giving back some of their recent gains in early trading on Wall Street, but remain close to the record highs major indexes set in recent days. Technology stocks are seeing some of the biggest losses. Chevron and Verizon bucked the downward trend and moved higher, the morning after Warren Buffett’s Berskhire Hathaway said it made major new investments in those companies in the second half of 2020. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at its highest level in a year.

NEW YORK (AP) — Those end-of-the-year stimulus checks got Americans shopping again. The Commerce Department says retail sales soared a seasonally adjusted 5.3% in January from the month before as the $600 stimulus checks pushed people to buy furniture, clothing and appliances. That’s the biggest increase since June and much larger than the 1% rise Wall Street analysts had expected. Retail sales slumped in the last three months of 2020, as stimulus money dried up, job growth was nonexistent and a surge in virus cases kept people away from stores during the critical holiday shopping season. December’s drop was even larger than first reported. It was revised down to a 1% decline instead of a 0.7%.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wholesale prices surged 1.3% in January, pushed higher by a big jump in energy costs. The Labor Department says the bigger-than-expected increase in its producer price index was the largest one-month gain on records that go back to 2009. It followed much milder inflation readings of 0.3% in December and 0.1% in November. The big jump, which reflected higher costs for energy and services, left wholesale prices rising over the past 12 months by 1.7%, the largest 12-month increase in a year. Core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food, was up 1.2% in January and 2% over the past 12 months.

WASHINGTON (AP) — American industry expanded in January for the fourth straight month but has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. The Federal Reserve reports that U.S. industrial production — which includes output factories, mines and utilities — rose 0.9% last month on top of increases of 1.3% in December, 0.9% in November and 1.1% in October. Still, industrial production was down 1.8% from January 2020, reflecting lingering economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic. Manufacturing rose 1% even though auto production was held down by a shortage of semiconductors used in vehicles. Mining jumped 2.3% on a burst of oil and gas drilling. Utlitiy output dropped 1.2% on declining demand for natural gas.

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Ford has announced a major push into electric vehicles in Europe, vowing to convert its entire passenger car lineup on the continent to electrics by 2030. Ford says it will spend $1 billion to revamp its factory in Cologne, Germany and make it a base for production of zero local emission cars using Volkswagen’s mechanical framework. The new electric car is expected to reach the market in mid-2023 and could be followed by a second one there in the future. The agreement lets Ford take advantage of Volkswagen’s massive investment in electric cars as the industry shifts toward zero-local emissions vehicles.

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