The Commerce Department today reported that retail sales increased only 0.5% in April and most of those gains -- particularly at gas stations and grocery stores -- coming as either a direct or indirect result of rising gasoline prices.

Meanwhile, sales at furniture stores and electronics dealers fell 1.2% and 2.2%, respectively, a sign that Americans were spending more on gas, which peaked at a national average of $3.99 earlier this month, as oil prices ascended before pulling back about 18% in the past three weeks.

Commerce Department data found that eight of the 13 major retailer categories followed posted gains in April, led by service stations (up 2.7%).

The Labor Department reported that 44,000 fewer unemployment claims were filed in the week ending May 7 to a total of 434,000 claims, slightly more than the 430,000 estimated by most analysts.

The producer-price index rose 0.8% for the month, more than 0.6% consensus estimate, and the so-called core measure, which excludes food and energy costs, increased 0.3%.

Despite the somewhat ominous consumer and employment data, the Dow Jones industrial average moved up 65.89 points, or 0.52%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq rose 0.5% and 0.6%.

Oil closed up 60 cents to $98.80 a barrel in Thursday trading.


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