Here’s what's shaking:
Americans spent more online in November to start the holiday season and began to replace cars and rebuild in the Northeast after Superstorm Sandy.
U.S. retail sales rose 0.3 percent in November from October, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That offset a 0.3 percent decline in October from September. The figures were much stronger after factoring lower gas prices. When excluding a large drop in gas station sales, retail sales increased by 0.8 percent.
Some figures suggest shoppers regained their enthusiasm for the holidays, perhaps later in the month. Electronic and appliance sales rose 2.5 percent. Furniture sales increased 1 percent.
Still, department stores sales dropped 0.8 percent. And sales at general merchandise stores, a broader category that includes Wal-Mart and Target, fell 0.9 percent.
U.S. Business Stockpiles:
U.S. businesses added to their stockpiles in October while sales fell, the Commerce Department said on Thursday.
The agency says inventories rose 0.4 percent, down from a 0.7 percent increase in September and the smallest gain in four months. Sales, meanwhile, dropped 0.4 percent.
Rising inventories and falling sales suggest that companies may have ordered more goods than they need. As a result, they are likely to cut back on orders in the coming months, which would slow factory output and economic growth.
A ratio of inventories to sales rose to its highest level in three years in October. That also indicates that companies may have restocked too much.
A big increase in stockpiles accelerated economic growth in the July-September quarter.
As of this writing, oil is down and U.S. stocks are flat:
The price of oil fell slightly as critical budget negotiations in Washington reached an apparent impasse.
Benchmark crude is down 12 cents to $86.65 a barrel in morning trading Thursday in New York.
The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded dropped more than a penny to $3.30, the lowest since July 3. That's still about 3 cents more than a year earlier.
Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 64 cents to $107.36 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Stocks are Flat:
Stocks opened close to break-even Thursday after the government said weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell to the second-lowest level this year.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up seven points at 13,252 after the first half-hour of trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up a fraction at 1,428. The Nasdaq composite index was down a fraction at 3,014.
Industrial stocks rose the most and energy stocks fell the most, but no category of stock moved more than half a percent.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.