Washington - More Americans than forecast filed claims for jobless benefits and sales of previously owned homes unexpectedly dropped, indicating the almost three-year-old economic expansion may be moderating.
Jobless claims fell by 2,000 to 386,000 in the week ended April 14 from a revised 388,000 the prior period, Labor Department figures showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a drop to 370,000. Purchases of homes fell 2.6 percent to a 4.48 million annual rate in March, the National Association of Realtors reported in Washington.
The claims data bolstered Federal Reserve concerns that growth may not be fast enough to sustain improvements in the job market that have helped push unemployment to a three-year low. Other reports Thursday showed that an index of leading indicators rose for a sixth month and consumer confidence improved, while manufacturing in the Philadelphia area grew at a slower pace.
"The economy has slowed a notch," said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pa., who is the most accurate forecaster of existing- home sales for the two years through February, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. "We're just not going to be able to duplicate the growth we saw in the first quarter."
Other reports Thursday offered signs of strength for the global economy.
Germany's economy, Europe's largest, will expand 0.9 percent this year, up from a prior estimate of 0.8 percent, four leading economic institutes, including Munich-based Ifo, said today in their twice-yearly economic outlook for Chancellor Angela Merkel's government. The economy will grow 2 percent in 2013, they said.
Japan reported the fastest export growth in a year and a smaller-than-expected trade deficit.