Sales at U.S. retailers and restaurants grew at the fastest pace in more than a year last month, a sign consumers stepped up spending after a slow start to 2016. Retail sales advanced 1.3% in April from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted $453 billion, the Commerce Department said. It was the best monthly gain since March 2015. Compared with a year earlier, retail sales grew 3%. That is well above the annual rate of inflation, which has been running at about 1% this year, as measured by the consumer-price index. And in the past year, Internet and catalog sales have grown more than three times as fast as overall sales, up 10.2%. Department-store sales, meanwhile, sank 1.7% over the past 12 months.
Home building in the U.S. rebounded in April, a sign the housing market could be finding traction after a slow first quarter. Housing starts rose 6.6% from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.2 million in April, the Commerce Department said. April’s uptick was driven by a jump in starts in the Midwest and a pickup in multifamily construction. Starts on single-family homes, which account for roughly two-thirds of new construction, rose 3.3% in April. Starts on multifamily buildings with five or more units, which include apartments and condominiums, rose 10.7% to 373,000. New applications for building permits, a bellwether for forthcoming construction, rose 3.6% to 1.1 million.
U.S. consumer prices jumped in April at the fastest pace in more than three years, propelled by rising gasoline prices, as underlying inflationary pressures continued to firm. The consumer-price index, which measures what Americans pay for everything from fresh fruit to footwear, increased a seasonally adjusted 0.4% in April from the prior month after rising 0.1% in March, the Labor Department said. That was the largest one-month increase since February 2013. A measure of underlying price pressures, which excludes the often-volatile categories of food and energy, rose 0.2% last month after ticking up 0.1% in March. Core prices were up 2.1% from a year earlier, a fifth consecutive month of annual growth above 2%—the longest such streak in four years.