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Stocks edge higher...Retail sales up slightly...Consumer prices rise...Builder sentiment surges

By The Associated Press | Posted - Mar. 15, 2017 at 8:37 a.m.



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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are rising in early trading on Wall Street after the government reported that prices paid by consumers increased in February, a sign of potentially stronger economic growth. But trading remains cautious ahead of today's announcement from the Federal Reserve. The Fed is widely expected to raise a key interest rate, but investors will be listening carefully for what it says about the economy and its plans for future rate hikes.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers may be getting more cautious. The Commerce Department Americans spent only slightly more last month at retail stores compared with January. Retail sales ticked up a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent in February, after a much bigger gain of 0.6 percent the previous month. January's gain was revised higher. Economists note that spending may have been held back by delays in tax refund payments. A new law has required tougher scrutiny of a tax credit claimed by lower-income taxpayers.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Inflation has slowed a bit. The Labor Department says consumer prices rose just a tenth of a percent in February, a down from January's 0.6 percent jump. Clothing and housing costs rose last month, while motor vehicle and gasoline prices dipped. Consumer prices have risen 2.7 percent over the past year. Excluding volatile food and energy categories, prices are up 2.2 percent. Both are above the 2 percent target the Federal Reserve has been looking for as it considers raising interest rates.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. homebuilders are feeling more optimistic about their sales prospects than they have in nearly 12 years. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index has jumped to 71 this month. That's up six points from February and the highest reading since June 2005. Analysts had expected the index to hold steady at 65. Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good rather than poor. The index has been above 60 since September.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses stockpiled more goods in warehouses and on store shelves in January, while sales growth slowed. The Commerce Department says business inventories increased by a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent in January from the previous month. Stockpiles rose sharply at auto dealers and furniture stores. Sales, meanwhile, increased 0.2 percent. That small gain followed a 2.1 percent jump in December, the most in six years.

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The Associated Press

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