Early on Friday, the U.S. Census Bureau will release the retail sales data for the month of April. Analysts expect the figure, a key gauge of economic growth, to rise 0.9 percent over the previous month — a significant improvement over the 0.3 percent decline in March.
The surge is expected to be fueled by a rebound in automobile sales, which dropped unexpectedly in March, raising concerns that consumer spending — which accounts for over two-thirds of U.S. gross domestic product — was losing momentum. Retail sales, excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, are also projected to rise 0.4 percent, up from 0.1 percent gain registered in March.
However, Joseph LaVorgna, Deutsche Bank’s chief U.S. economist, told CNBC that he expects retail sales to have risen only 0.3 percent in April, a “softi-ish” growth he attributed to slow pace of consumption.
“It's a function of several things — the acknowledgement that the Fed’s low rate policy will persist,” LaVorgna said. “That has pushed people into saving more. Given the fact that tax receipt growth has fallen off so sharply over the past year, it's possible the jobs creation you've got is good growth but income is soft and that's maybe why consumers aren't spending the energy tax cut.”
Official data released earlier this week showed that jobless claims last week rose to a 14-month high of 294,000 — a spike many blamed on the recent strike by Verizon workers. However, the rise in weekly unemployment claims, coupled with data showing that nonfarm payrolls increased at a smaller-than-expected pace of 160,000 in April, has sparked fears that the domestic labor market may be showing signs of a slowdown.
“The claims data ... have increased significantly over the most recent three weeks and this does suggest that the labor market has deteriorated lately,” Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York, told Reuters. “But we do not want to read too much into the individual weekly figures, especially around this time of year.”