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US economy stalls as retail sales fall
US retail sales fell unexpectedly in March, adding to fears that the world's largest economy may have stalled at the end of the first quarter.

Retail sales fell by 0.4pc last month, according to the US Commerce Department. Analysts had expected sales to be flat.

Consumer spending accounts for about 70pc of the world's largest economy, and analysts said the fall suggested that a payroll tax hike in January and jump in petrol prices had "forced households to pull back".

"Coming on the back of the weakening in the ISM surveys and payrolls data in March, the economy appears to have lost some momentum," said Paul Dales, US economist at Capital Economics.

Omer Esiner, an analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange, said that Friday's data would put more pressure on the dollar.

"It is the latest in a growing list of economic numbers that will likely keep the dollar pressured and the Fed in no hurry to normalise policy," he said.

Stripping out cars, petrol and building materials, sales fell 0.2pc in March. This measure corresponds closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product (GDP). The government revised lower past core retail sales figures to show a 0.3pc gain in February and flat sales in January.

Data last week showed that US jobs growth slowed sharply last month, bringing to a halt the recent improvement in the economy's labour market.

US President Barack Obama has set out spending cuts to replace the $85bn "sequester" cuts that kicked-in last month.

The White House said the measures would together bring the US budget deficit down to 2.8pc of GDP by 2016, from 5.3pc this year, and would cut the US deficit by $1.8 trillion in a decade.

However, it stands little chance of being enacted into law because of Republican opposition to tax increases.

Separate producer price data for March showed that wholesale prices in the US fell 0.6pc on a monthly basis in March, as petrol costs fell back from recent highs.

The drop was the biggest since May 2012, and followed a 0.7pc gain in February, according to the US Labor Department.

The US economy grew by 0.4pc in the final three months of 2012.

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