Retail sales up in July...Business inventories rise

August 14, 2003
Posted at 4:36 p.m. CDT

Washington-AP -- Retail sales are higher for the third month in a row.

The Commerce Department says sales jumped 1.4% in July, fueled by purchases of new cars, appliances and clothes.

The increase is larger than many analysts had expected, even when auto sales are excluded. In that case, sales still rose a healthy 0.8%

Adding to the rosy retail showing, the government revised its sales figures for both May and June to show bigger increases.

Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all economic activity in the United States and has been the main force keeping the economy going.



) -- There's an indication that US companies are feeling pretty good about consumer demand in the months ahead.

The Commerce Department says businesses increased their inventories by 0.1% in June.

While that's not a huge increase, it is better than the decline of 0.1% that many analysts had expected.

Economists are hoping that businesses will stock up on goods through the rest of this year, which could help boost economic growth.


Bentonville, Arkansas-AP

) -- Wal-Mart saw its profits surge almost 15 percent in the second quarter.

The world's largest retailer says earnings from continuing operations came to 2.28 billion dollars, or 52 cents a share, meeting analyst expectations. A year ago, Wal-Mart earned 2 billion dollars, or 45 cents a share.

The company credits a strong quarter of sales from its international division.

Wal-Mart has more than 3400 stores in the US and another 1300 abroad.


New York-Dow Jones/AP

) -- The feud between Verizon and MCI is heating up.

The Wall Street Journal reports Verizon has given the FCC internal MCI e-mails showing MCI employees discussed the use of "pseudo" phone numbers that may have helped the carrier avoid paying fees to local phone companies for completing calls.

According to the Verizon filing, MCI, with the aid of third parties, stripped call-routing data and inserted false information to make calls appear as if they were local. That would make them less expensive to MCI.

The disclosures come weeks ahead of a critical Bankruptcy Court hearing, in which a judge will decide whether MCI -- the former WorldCom -- can emerge from bankruptcy in October, as planned.

(Brussels, Belgium-AP) -- The European Union and the US have reached agreement on a framework for handling demands from developing nations for cuts in farm subsidies at upcoming World Trade Organization talks.

An EU spokesman says the position was worked out at the request of the WTO to help smooth out the talks on agriculture. He stresses, however, that the agreement is not a "fixed deal," but a basis for future negotiations with a little detail in it.

Developing countries have been calling for major cuts in farm subsidies and import tariffs that keep their products out of other markets. Less competitive producers and importers claim they need some of the measures to support their own farmers and protect rural communities.

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