Once again last week, the contrast between the economic experience in the U.S. and the rest of the world was on full display. Domestically, retail sales surged in November to their best monthly gain since back-to-back strong increases in February and March, when consumers emerged from the polar vortex-driven winter slowdown. And the October report was revised higher, reinforcing the strong rebound from September’s decline.

November’s gains were widespread, helped along by falling gasoline prices and strong jobs growth. In fact, falling revenues at service stations accounted for one of only two retail categories which experienced declining sales during the month.

Consumer confidence also rose. The December preliminary reading of consumer confidence by the University of Michigan rose to its highest level since January 2007, a full year before the recession began.

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The U.S. economy continues to pull away from the rest of the world. Last week’s data showed an increase in purchasing managers’ activity, construction spending, motor vehicle sales, and the best month of jobs growth in almost three years.

In contrast, purchasing manager surveys in the Eurozone dipped, as did retail sales, and the central bank held its fire. In Japan, the economy was weaker in the third quarter than first estimated, as corporate investment slumped and consumer spending remained sluggish.

Not surprisingly, the dollar continued to climb. The DXY dollar index rose another 1.1 percent last week, bringing its climb since the start of the third quarter to 12 percent. Versus the euro, that increase has totaled 10 percent, while versus the yen it has been closer to 20 percent, reflective of the more aggressive Bank of Japan.

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The job market is still not back to where we would all like to see it, but we’re making very good progress in getting there.

November was yet another month of strong jobs growth as companies previously operating with very tight labor force levels have been compelled to hire at a more rapid pace amid improving demand.

It’s nearly impossible to find fault with the November jobs report. Job growth was very strong, the gains were well distributed, and wage growth is finally gaining traction. These are all very good signs, not just for the near-term shopping season, but also for American economic growth prospects for the next few quarters at least. 

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OPEC’s decision last week to leave its production quotas unchanged has upended the global economic calculus. Already five months into a price decline that saw ICE Brent crude oil drop from $112 a barrel in June to $78 last Wednesday, OPEC on Thursday chose to let the price be determined by the marketplace, rather than by its own supply management.

The result was an immediate and dramatic gap lower of an additional 10 percent to end the week. In total, Brent crude has now fallen almost 40 percent since mid-summer, amidst a glut of global supply and slowing demand.

The decision by OPEC made it abundantly clear where its center of influence resides, namely among its Persian Gulf members, which are financially strong and can weather an extended period of prices below where even they would prefer in the long run.

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MINNEAPOLIS – November 25, 2014 – Ameriprise Financial, Inc. (NYSE: AMP) today announced that Jim Cracchiolo, chairman and chief executive officer, is scheduled to speak about the company’s business and strategy at the Goldman Sachs US Financial Services Conference in New York City on Tuesday, December 9, 2014 at approximately 9:20 a.m. (ET).
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Three weeks ago it was the Bank of Japan that jolted the global markets with its surprise announcement of a sharp expansion of monetary stimulus. Last week, on Friday, it was the People’s Bank of China’s and the European Central Bank’s turn, as the former unexpectedly lowered interest rates and the latter reiterated its commitment to supporting growth and raising inflation in the Eurozone.
Market reaction was pronounced. Stocks worldwide rose sharply, the dollar surged, while commodity prices rose despite the dollar’s strength. The Euro Stoxx 50 index rose 3.0 on Friday, followed by a more modest gain of 0.5 percent in the S&P 500. The MSCI Emerging Markets index climbed 1.1 percent. Stocks in China rallied sharply in Monday trading. The euro gapped lower against the U.S. dollar, oil and industrial metals prices rose, and bond yields moved lower.

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Minneapolis – (November 19, 2014) – For the ninth consecutive year, Ameriprise Financial (NYSE: AMP) has earned 100 percent on the Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a national benchmarking survey and report that measures corporate policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality. Ameriprise joins 366 major U.S. businesses that received top marks on the 2015 index from a total of 971 participating businesses. View More

Minneapolis(Nov. 13, 2014) – For the fifth year in a row, a surge of volunteers from Ameriprise Financial (NYSE: AMP) will turn out at food banks, warehouses and kitchens all over the U.S. to package and prepare meals for families in need. Beginning at 9:00 a.m. EST tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 14, nonprofits across all 50 states will open their doors to Ameriprise employees, advisors and clients who will roll up their sleeves and get to work at more than 500 events. By the end of the day, the company expects to easily exceed its goal of assembling more than 1 million meals for people in communities from coast to coast.
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Citing falling energy prices and rising consumer confidence among other factors, energy prices have certainly captured a lot of attention recently. Between late June and early November, the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil fell from $107.00 a barrel to $77.00, a decline of 28 percent. During that time, the national average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline has fallen from $3.66 to $2.93, which is the first time the price has been below $3.00 since 2010. Between mid-June and late-October, the price of natural gas fell from $4.76 per (mmBTUs) to $3.56, a 25 percent decline.
The beneficiaries of these moves are not hard to find. Consumers are saving money every time they fill up. It is estimated that each day consumers are collectively saving $100 million compared to one year ago.

Energy intensive industries are big savers as well, including airlines, truckers and other transports. The country’s retailers are also hopeful that some of these savings will be directed their way during the current holiday shopping season. The National Retail Federation estimates that sales will grow this year by 4.1 percent, compared to last year’s rise of 3.1 percent.

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