U.S. retail sales rose in November and jobless claims fell sharply last week, hopeful signs for an economy that appears to have slowed sharply in the fourth quarter.
Retail sales rose 0.3 percent, rebounding from a 0.3 percent decline in October, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters had expected an increase of 0.5 percent last month.
The data puts consumer spending in a slightly brighter light considering growing fears the U.S. government will adopt harsh austerity measures in January, while new jobless claims fell to within a hair of their lowest since the economic recovery began and pointed to ongoing healing in the labor market. (Read More: As Global Consumers Shop Mobile, Apple Outshines Rivals)
"Consumers have recovered somewhat after October's drop in sales," said Joseph Trevisani, a market strategist at Worldwide Markets in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.
A separate measure of retail sales, which strips out automobiles, gasoline and building materials, rose a more healthy 0.5 percent. This core reading more closely follows the government's gauge of consumer spending, which is a major component of economic growth.
Many economists think fears of imminent tax hikes and government spending cuts are hitting consumer confidence and leading businesses to hold back on investment. In early December, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index plunged by the most since March 2011. (Read More: The 'Fiscal Cliff', Inflation and Your Investments)