Retail sales rebound as gas prices drop; High-speed traders’ donations on the rise

May 13, 2013
ECONOMY
Retail sales rebound as gas prices drop

Lower-priced gasoline allowed Americans to step up their spending at retailers in April, from cars and clothes to electronics and appliances. The rebound from a weak March suggests that consumers remain resilient in the face of higher taxes and could continue to drive economic growth this spring.

Retail sales edged up 0.1 percent in April, the Commerce Department said Monday. That’s an improvement from a 0.5 percent decline in March, the largest drop in nine months.

The April gain was stronger when taking out the effect of lower gas prices, which reduced sales at gas stations 4.7 percent. The retail sales report is not adjusted for price changes.

When excluding gas station sales, retail spending rose 0.7 percent. And core retail sales, which exclude gas, autos and building supplies, increased 0.5 percent. Economists pay close attention to core sales because they strip out the most volatile categories.

Sales of autos rose 1 percent in April, rebounding from a 0.6 percent drop in March. Sales at clothing stores increased 1.2 percent and sales at general merchandise stores, a category that covers department stores, rose 1 percent. Sales were also strong at building materials and garden supply stores and electronics and appliance stores.

— Associated Press

POLITICS
High-speed traders’ donations on the rise

High-frequency trading firms increased their campaign contributions to federal lawmakers by 673 percent from the 2008 to the 2012 election cycle, according to a report that sheds light on their political connections in Washington and efforts to influence policymaking.

The report by the nonprofit watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) compiles the campaign and lobbying records of 48 firms such as Citadel Investments, Getco, Knight Capital, Virtu Financial and Tradeworx that engage in high-speed trading, a strategy that uses lightening-fast computers to search for ways to take advantage of tiny price moves in the marketplace.

It also identifies lawmakers who raked in the most campaign dollars over the course of three election cycles from high-frequency traders, with some of the biggest recipients from New York and Illinois, home to the country’s two largest financial hubs.

CREW’s report found that since 2008 — the height of the financial crisis — the firms included in the study collectively spent $10 million to lobby Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

For campaign contributions, the firms collectively went from spending just $2.1 million in the 2008 cycle to $16.1 million in the 2012 cycle — a 673 percent increase.

The largest single recipient of donations from high-speed trading is Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), followed by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

— Reuters

Also in Business

l  U.S. businesses left their stockpiles unchanged in March for a second straight month while their sales fell sharply. The Commerce Department said Monday that business stockpiles showed no increase in March on a seasonally adjusted basis. Businesses hadn’t upped their restocking in February, either. Sales fell 1.1 percent in March, offsetting a 1 percent gain in February.

l  Amazon announced Monday that it’s giving all Kindle Fire users a starter set of “Amazon Coins,” with which users can buy apps, games and make in-app payments within the company’s ecosystem. The move may help Amazon increase sales within its ecosystem and make it easier for developers to make more money off of apps on its mobile store, which in turns makes its platform more attractive for developers.

l  The Web sites of WTOP and Federal News Radio are no longer infected with malware that installed fake antivirus software onto some users’ computers, the owners said Monday. Full access was restored Saturday. The passwords for all registered users on both sites have been reset, the stations said. Both stations are owned by Hubbard Radio.

l  Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke will deliver testimony May 22 on the outlook for the economy before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, according to an announcement on the Web site of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), vice chairman of the committee.

l  The leaders of Spain and Portugal on Monday demanded that the 17-nation euro zone speed efforts to create a banking union and complained that credit is frozen in their countries, preventing economic growth and crucial job creation. The Madrid meeting of Portugal’s Pedro Coelho and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy came as European finance ministers were gathering in Brussels to discuss the continent’s financial crisis.

l  Transocean said Monday that J. Michael Talbert plans to retire as chairman of the oil drilling company’s board by November. The move comes amid intense pressure on Transocean from billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who is seeking shareholder approval for his own slate of board nominees and a higher dividend from the company. Transocean, based in Switzerland, owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, triggering a massive offshore oil spill.

— From staff reports, news services

Coming Today

l  8:30 a.m.: Import and export prices for April.

LEGAL
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