Retail sales blew through estimates in March, aided by the latest stimulus efforts, but also from the economy continuing to reopen and better weather than the winter storms in February. Total retail sales grew by 9.8% over February, while expectations were for a solid, but still underestimated, 5.8% gain.
CPI ticked up 0.6% for March as well, which was slightly above estimates of a 0.5% increase, but not the pop that some were fearing. A primary driver of the increase was energy prices, especially gasoline. The annual figure of 2.6% may be artificially high given a year ago we were in the depths of the pandemic, though even at those levels we would need to see them sustained for a period of time before warranting wider fears or Fed action.
Housing starts picked up considerably as well in March, which recorded the highest rebound since 2006 and exceeded expectations with a 19.4% jump, while building applications also climbed.
Initial jobless claims dropped considerably to 576K, from 744K the week prior. This was notably better than the expectation for 700K new claims and adds to the string of recent good news on the labor front.