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Retail sales up for first time in four months

People walk down a street with shopping bags in Times Square on July 27, 2012 in New York City.

Jeremy Hobson: We just learned that retail sales in the U.S. jumped by almost a percent last month. That was the first uptick in four months, as consumers spent their money on everything from cars to electronics.

Our New York bureau chief Heidi Moore has been digging into the numbers and she joins us now. Good morning.

Heidi Moore: Good morning, Jeremy.

Hobson: So Heidi, consumers back in a spending mood again, it seems.

Moore: Yes, this shows that the U.S. consumer spent money last month -- which is great, because for the past four months they had not. And we had a pretty dire view of what was going on in the economy. What's really interesting about this report is that the greater sales were driven by consumer goods, and that they beat expectations significantly. So not only were they up, they were way up.

Hobson: And you know, gas prices had been down during summer -- now I guess they are going to tick back up again. But maybe that played into this a little bit?

Moore: Yes, gas prices are a huge influence on consumer spending, because of course, that takes a chunk out of your wallet. And it seems like that's turning around.

Hobson: How important are consumers to our economy?

Moore: Our entire economy is basically centered on the consumer; by some estimates, two-thirds of GDP can be attributed to consumer spending. But what's also really good about this is that it ties into other great economic indicators for consumers. Housing prices seem to have hit a bottom recently, and consumer confidence was way up in July, also after four months of declines. So this shows a trend of positivity.

Hobson: Marketplace New York bureau chief Heidi Moore, thanks a lot.

Moore: Thank you.

About the author

Heidi N. Moore is The Guardian's U.S. finance and economics editor. She was formerly the New York bureau chief and Wall Street correspondent for Marketplace.
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