News In Brief

Strong July sales at US retail stores increased concern that the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates later this month. The Commerce Department said the total value of retail sales climbed a stronger-than-expected 0.7 percent, more than double the 0.3 percent forecast by Wall Street economists. The seasonally adjusted sales figure for July was $248.69 billion. Retail sales fell a revised 0.2 percent in June.

New claims for jobless benefits rose by a slim 4,000 last week, but the more reliable four-week moving average fell to its lowest level in more than ten years, the Labor Department reported. It said initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose for the second consecutive week, but slower than expected - rising to 284,000 for the week ended Aug. 7 from 280,000 the week before. Economists polled by Reuters had expected 294,000 claims.

Despite a punishing drought in the East, US farmers will reap record-setting soybean and rice crops - as well as the third-largest corn crop - keeping grocery prices low, the Agriculture Department said in its first forecast of the fall harvest. It said mammoth harvests will bring some of the lowest crop prices in years, adding to a global grain glut.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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