NEW YORK (
) -- Amid fits and starts, the U.S. economy appears to be strengthening, according to Thursday's barrage of economic data.
Initial jobless claims in the week ended Aug. 10 fell 15,000 to a lower-than-expected 320,000, the lowest level since late 2007, according to the Labor Department Thursday. Economists polled by
were expecting jobless claims of 335,000.
Continuing claims in the week ended Aug. 3 was 2.969 million, down 54,000 from the prior week but even with economists' average forecasts of 3 million.
The National Association of Home Builders' housing market index rose to a better-than-expected 59 in August from 56 in July. A fall to 56 was expected.
The consumer price index rose 0.2% in July, as expected, after increasing 0.5% in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The core CPI, which excludes food and energy costs increased 0.2%, also in line with expectations, after increasing 0.2% the prior month. The Empire State manufacturing index fell to 8.2 in August from 9.46 in July, remaining positive. A rise to 10 in August was expected.
And industrial production came in flat in July, after increasing by a downwardly-revised 0.2% in June, according to the
. Economists were expecting a rise of 0.3% in July.
The recovery shows progress but more akin to two steps forward and one step back than a full-blown acceleration.
"The news that U.S. industrial production was flat in July does little to dent the improving economic outlook, especially when the survey evidence has been more upbeat ... the survey evidence, such as this morning's Empire State manufacturing index, has remained positive," Paul Dales, a London-based senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics explained in a note.
"And overseas demand appears to be strengthening. As such, industry will soon be growing at a respectable rate. In any case, the fall in initial jobless claims last week, to a six-year low ... suggests that growth in other parts of the economy is helping the labor market."
The general business conditions index of the Philadelphia Fed's Business Outlook survey declined to 9.3 in August from 19.8 in July. A fall to 15 in August was expected. Nevertheless, the index remains above its six-month average of 6.6.
-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York
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