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Retail sales dropped 0.2 percent as households cut back on purchases of furniture, clothing, food and electronics and appliances, as well as building materials and gardening equipment. But January’s sales increase was revised up to 0.7 percent from the previously reported 0.2 percent. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales rising 0.3 percent in February. Retail sales in February advanced 2.2 percent from a year ago. The surprise drop in sales in February could partly reflect delays in processing tax refunds in the middle of the month. Tax refunds have also been smaller on average compared to prior years following the revamping of the tax code in January 2018. Cold and snowy weather could also have hurt sales shirt cufflinks.
Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales fell 0.2 percent in February after an upwardly revised 1.7 percent surge in January. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product shirt cufflinks. They were previously reported to have rebounded 1.1 percent in January. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity. While the upward revision to core retail sales did not reverse December’s 2.2 percent plunge, it put consumer spending for the first-quarter on a slightly higher growth trajectory than before..
There was a further boost to first-quarter GDP prospects, with a second report from the Commerce Department showing construction spending rose 1.0 percent to a nine-month high in February after surging 2.5 percent in January shirt cufflinks. A third report from the department showed business inventories increased 0.8 percent in January, matching December’s gain. Though the strong inventory build suggests demand is slowing it lifted GDP forecasts for the first quarter. “Consumption, however, is likely to remain weak, and the inventory build is getting ominous,” said Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial in New York..
Goldman Sachs raised its first-quarter GDP estimate by four-tenths of a percentage point to a 1.2 percent annualized rate shirt cufflinks. The economy grew at a 2.2 percent rate in the October-December quarter. The dollar was little changed against a basket of currencies, while U.S. Treasury prices fell. Stocks on Wall Street were trading higher. While demand is softening, the supply side of the economy is stabilizing. In a fourth report on Monday, the Institute for Supply Management said its index of national factory activity rose to a reading of 55.3 in March from 54.2 in February, which had marked the lowest level since November 2016..
The reading was slightly above expectations of 54.5 from a Reuters poll of 69 economists shirt cufflinks. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the manufacturing sector, which accounts for about 12 percent of the U.S. economy. The ISM said 16 industries, including machinery, computer and electronic products, furniture, and electrical equipment, appliances and components, reported growth last month. Apparel and paper products industries reported a contraction. Manufactures in the computer and electronic products industry said the sector “seems to be slowly coming out of crisis mode.” Chemical producers said “Brexit continues to be a concern, despite the fact that our organization has already rolled out a plan to minimize its impact.”..