March US sales boost signals more optimism

Retail Sales Rebounded in March According to Advance Estimate

Spending at USA retailers rose broadly in March, rebounding after a weak start this year for consumer spending despite a solid labor market and growing worker paychecks.

With auto sales rebounding strongly, the Commerce Department released a report on Monday showing retail sales in the US increased by more than anticipated in the month of March. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected a 0.3% increase. For the year, vehicle sales were up 4.5 percent.

Of 13 major retail categories itemized, eight showed increases. Excluding both autos and gasoline, sales rose 0.3 per cent. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies stores were off 0.6 percent for the month, though they were up 5.3 percent for the year. Sales increased 0.7% from revised up sales of $9.86 billion in February.

Personal consumption and retail spending had disappointed analysts in recent months, feeding expectations the U.S. economy will see slower growth in the first quarter of the year. Refunds from 2017 returns may have also given retail sales a boost in March.

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The relatively weak spending has kept estimates for economic growth in check, with analysts forecasting before Monday's report that gross domestic product expanded at a 2.2 percent annualized pace in the January-March period, down from 2.9 percent in the previous quarter.

Even with the bounceback, consumer spending probably expanded at a slower pace in the first quarter.

Consumers snapped up electronics, shopped online and frequented bars and restaurants, but sales sagged at department stores, gas stations and clothing outlets, according to the Commerce Department report.

Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 6.1% year-over-year but down 0.8% from February seasonally adjusted.

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