Inside these posts: Commerce Department

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Passwords obsolete under new security standards

The Obama administration urged the private sector Friday to develop methods that consumers can use instead of passwords to identify themselves online and, in some cases, in brick and mortar stores.

“The Internet has transformed how we communicate and do business,” said President Barack Obama in a statement accompanying release of a national strategy to safeguard identity on the Internet. Get the full story »

Housing starts see biggest drop since 1984

U.S. housing starts posted their biggest decline in 27 years in February while building permits dropped to their lowest level on record, suggesting the beleaguered real estate sector has yet to rebound from its deepest slump in modern history. Get the full story »

Rents could jump double digits as vacancies drop

Renters beware: Double-digit rent hikes may be coming soon amid rental vacancy rates that have dipped below the 10 percent mark, where they had been lodged for most of the past three years.

“Young people are starting to get rid of their roommates and move out of their parent’s basements,” said Peggy Alford, president of, predicting the vacancy rate will hover at a mere 5 percent by 2012. With fewer units on the market, prices will explode. Get the full story »

Retail sales post largest gains in 4 months

U.S. retail sales posted their largest gain in four months in February as shoppers stepped up purchases of autos, clothes and other goods even as they spent more for gasoline. Friday’s report from the Commerce Department pointed to strong consumer spending and acceleration in economic growth in the first quarter. Get the full story »

U.S. families cut debt to lowest level in 6 years

U.S. families — by defaulting on their loans and scrimping on expenses — shouldered a smaller debt burden in 2010 than at any point in the previous six years, putting them in position to start spending more.

Total U.S. household debt, including mortgages and credit cards, fell for the second straight year in 2010 to $13.4 trillion, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday. That came to 116 percent of disposable income, down from a peak debt burden of 130 percent in 2007, and the lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2004. Get the full story »

Wholesale inventory gains bode well for 1Q

U.S. wholesale inventories rose in January and sales set their fastest pace in 14 months, suggesting restocking and strong demand would lift the economy in the first quarter.

Total wholesale inventories rose 1.1 percent, to $436.88 billion, the highest level since November 2008, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It revised December inventories up 1.3 percent. Get the full story »

Consumer spending edges up, incomes surge

U.S. consumer spending rose less than expected in January as households took advantage of the largest increase in incomes in more than 1-1/2 years to rebuild their savings, government data showed on Monday. Get the full story »

Fourth-quarter GDP growth revised down to 2.8%

The economy grew much slower than originally thought at the end of 2010, according to new estimates released by the government Friday.

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity, was revised sharply lower to an annual growth rate of 2.8 percent in the three months ending in December. The initial reading had been for a 3.2 percent growth rate in the period. Get the full story »

Housing starts rise, building permits drop

Partially completed townhouses in Des Plaines, Ill., in March of 2010. (Tim Boyle/Bloomberg)

U.S. housing starts rose more than expected in January to their highest rate in four months but permits for future home construction dropped sharply after hefty gains the prior month, according to a government report on Wednesday that showed the housing market still bouncing along the bottom.

The Commerce Department said housing starts jumped 14.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 596,000 units, the highest since September. December’s starts were revised down to a 520,000-unit pace from the previously reported rate of 530,000 units. Get the full story »

Retail sales gains slow in January lull

Retailers logged slight increases in store sales last month as consumers focused primarily on paying for groceries and gasoline, the government reported Tuesday.

The Commerce Department said total retail sales rose 0.3 percent last month. Get the full story »

Consumer spending jumps in December

U.S. consumer spending rose more than expected in December to post the sixth straight month of gains as households drew down on their savings to fund purchases, government data showed Monday.

The Commerce Department said spending increased 0.7 percent after rising by 0.3 percent in November. Get the full story »

GDP up 3.2% in 4Q as spending buoys economy

The U.S. economy gathered speed in the fourth quarter, though a touch below expectations, with the biggest gain in consumer spending in more than four years and strong exports offering the clearest signals yet that a sustainable recovery is under way. Get the full story »

Sales of new homes top forecasts, still not robust

New home sales climbed 17.5 percent in December to the highest level in eight months, the government reported Wednesday.

Sales of newly built single-family homes rose to an annual rate of 329,000 units last month, from a revised 280,000 units the month before, the Commerce Department said. That was the highest level since April but still down 7.6 percent from 2009. Get the full story »

U.S. housing starts lowest since late 2009

Groundbreaking on new U.S. home construction fell more than expected in December to its lowest in over a year, suggesting the battered housing sector remains a major roadblock to economic recovery. Get the full story »

2010 retail sales post biggest gains in a decade

Sales at U.S. retailers rose slightly less than expected in December, but retail sales for all of 2010 reversed two years of contraction and posted the biggest gain in more than a decade, a government report showed on Friday. Get the full story »