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Weekly Economic Update: April 17, 2023

Presented by Nicholas Wealth Management

Mixed Inflation Report for March: The U.S. Department of Labor reported last week that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose in March by 0.1% over the prior month and by 5.0% compared to March of last year. These figures were down from 0.4% and 6.0%, respectively, in February, and the 5.0% annual increase was the slowest pace in nearly two years. Key factors contributing to the slower rates in March were declining energy prices and flat food prices versus the prior month. Excluding these categories, however, the so-called core CPI actually accelerated modestly to a 5.6% annual rate versus 5.5% in February, due to continued pressure on prices for shelter and transportation services. Gold Shines: The price of gold briefly exceeded $2,050 per troy ounce last week (as measured by gold futures contracts), the highest price of the year and just below the record high of $2,069 in the summer of 2020. Prices have rallied 23% since November of last year, pushed higher by declining interest rates and a weaker U.S. dollar (both of which tend to be supportive of gold prices). Additional tailwinds have included aggressive buying by global central banks since the start of the year and gold's safe haven appeal in uncertain environments — the latter evident in its price jump of nearly 11% alone since the start of the banking industry turmoil in early March. Retail Sales Fall in March: U.S. retail sales fell 1.0% in March versus the prior month, according to data reported last week from the Department of Commerce. This was the second straight monthly decline, and the fourth in five months, the only positive result during this period being the surprising 3.2% jump recorded in January. Sales fell in eight out of 13 retail categories in March, led by gasoline stations (-5.5%, the largest drop since April 2020), general merchandise, electronics, and building materials. Excluding gasoline and autos, retail sales fell 0.3%, the first drop in four months but a smaller decline than was forecasted by economists. Source: Gallagher Insurance, Risk Management and Consulting