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U.S. Consumers Feeling More Confident, Increase Retail Spending

The Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer confidence increased in November for the first time in three months as the pace of job cuts slowed and shoppers increased retail sales.

The index of consumer sentiment unexpectedly rose to 73.4, much higher than economists had forecast, from 67.4 in November, according to the report released Friday.  The December figure exceeds the average of 65 for the first nine months of the year.

Separately, U.S. retail sales rose 1.3% in November, the Commerce Department said Friday.  The figure was almost twice as much as the 0.7% increase Wall Street had expected.

Improved sentiment may have helped spending as the numbers suggest consumers were buying aggressively during the crucial holiday shopping season, helping to sustain a fragile economic recovery entering 2010.

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Lawmakers Looking to Use Excess TARP Funds for a Second Stimulus

With the unemployment rate still lingering above 10%, House Democrats are suggesting some of the excess funds from the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) be used to promote job creation in what would essentially be a second stimulus.

The Obama administration said in August that TARP – which Congress funded with $700 billion of taxpayer money – would only cost the $341 billion once banks repay government loans, injections and other investments. Now, the U.S. Treasury can take another $200 billion off of that, Reuters reported, citing an anonymous Treasury official.

"We're going to explain that we're going to have substantial savings, that we're going to have very substantial resources we can make available to support not just the immediate priorities the country faces in spurring investment in job creation, but also to meet our long term fiscal challenges," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in an interview with Bloomberg.

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Unemployment Monkey Loosens Grip On Economy's Back

Is the dark cloud of joblessness finally starting to dissipate? Key indicators suggest it is, and while this will be a slow-moving dissipation, top economists as well as the U.S. Federal Reserve now say the picture for the coming months looks a little less bleak. Unemployment, considered to be one of the darkest spots of […]

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Soaring Productivity, Drop in New Benefits Claims Provide Silver Lining in the Dour Jobs Market

Productivity at U.S. businesses blew away forecasts in the third quarter and initial unemployment claims dropped to a 10-month low last week the Labor Department said Thursday. The reports raised hopes that the labor market may be starting to bottom.

The news sent the stock markets soaring as the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 204.05 points, or 2.08%%, to close at 10,006.19, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index popped 20.13 points, or 1.92%, to close at 1,066.63 and the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 49.8 points, or 2.42%, to close at 2,105.32.

Business productivity rose a higher-than-expected 9.5%, its fastest pace in six years, as companies squeezed more output from fewer workers. A survey of analysts by Reuters had projected productivity, or output per hour per worker, to rise at a 6.4% rate in the third quarter.

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Government Looks to Extend Jobless Payments as Unemployment Soars

With unemployment expected to remain at its highest level in decades for at least another year, the government is considering another extension of jobless benefits to help the unemployed. The House of Representatives will vote next Wednesday on a new measure that would extend jobless benefits for an additional seven weeks nationwide and for 13 […]

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New Data Show Slow Recovery for U.S. Housing and Unemployment

Recent data suggests that crises in the job and housing markets have begun to subside. But a thorough examination of the numbers suggests the U.S. economy still has a lot of healing to do. Government reports released today (Thursday) revealed the number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment benefits was lower than forecast last […]

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Retail Sales Rise but Unemployment Dampens Outlook

By Jason SimpkinsManaging EditorMoney Morning Retail sales unexpectedly rose in January – halting a record six-month skid – but the upbeat report could easily be a one-month wonder, since U.S. unemployment continues to climb. Sales at U.S. retailers rose 1% in January, the largest monthly increase since November 2007, and followed a 3% drop in […]

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