* The usually cautious Congressional Budget Office said Thursday ''the recession is ending'' and predicted the deficit will be $14 billion lower this year than President Reagan forecasts.
The office said in its annual economic report the economy will grow 4 percent in 1983 and 4.7 percent in 1984, and the budget deficit will be $194 billion this year. In contrast, Mr. Reagan's 1984 budget estimates the economy will grow only 3.1 percent this year and 4 percent in 1984 and the budget deficit will be about $208 billion in 1983.
* Major retail chains reported their best news in many months, issuing strong January sales reports that prompted many analysts to announce that the long-awaited surge in consumer spending had begun.
Sears, Roebuck & Co., the nation's largest retailer, said its sales rose 5.5 percent in January from the same month a year earlier. F. W. Woolworth Company, the fourth largest, said its sales were up 32.4 percent.
* New claims for unemployment benefits dropped for the third consecutive week , reaching the lowest level since the week of Sept. 12, 1981, the Labor Department said Thursday. The number of people receiving benefits stayed below 4 million.