Gain in March an in­di­ca­tion that con­sumer weak­ness may be fad­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - By Ka­tia Dmitrieva Bloomberg News

U.S. re­tail sales rose by more than ex­pected in March in the first gain in four months, sug­gest­ing con­sumer de­mand re­gained steam on the back of tax cuts and re­funds.

Re­ceipts ad­vanced 0.6 per­cent fol­low­ing a 0.1 per­cent drop in the pre­vi­ous month, ac­cord­ing to Com­merce Depart­ment fig­ures re­leased Mon­day. That com­pared with the me­dian es­ti­mate of economists for a 0.4 per­cent in­crease. So-called re­tail con­trol-group sales, which are used to cal­cu­late gross do­mes­tic prod­uct and ex­clude food ser­vices, auto deal­ers, build­ing-ma­te­ri­als stores and gaso­line sta­tions, gained 0.4 per­cent, match­ing es­ti­mates.

The i mprove­ment i n de­mand went be­yond a bump in auto sales, as con­sumers went shop­ping at fur­ni­ture and home stores along with elec­tron­ics- and ap­pli­ance-sell­ers. The re­sults un­der­score that the de­clines from De­cem­ber to Fe­bru­ary were more of a pause fol­low­ing a post-hur­ri­cane spend­ing binge.

“It’s nice to see the bounce­back here — to me it’s just on trend,” So­ci­ete Gen­erale se­nior U.S. econ­o­mist Omair Sharif said. “If you look at the quar­ter as a whole, we’re not break­ing out from the kind of real spend­ing num­bers we’ve seen the last sev­eral years.”

Eight of 13 ma­jor re­tail cat­e­gories showed in­creases. Sales at health and per­sonal-care stores rose 1.4 per­cent, the most in two years. Auto sales rose 2 per­cent, the most since Septem­ber; a re­port last week showed pur­chases of cars and light trucks rose to a 17.4 mil­lion an­nu­al­ized rate in March, the fastest this year.

Weaker sales cat­e­gories in­cluded build­ing-ma­te­ri­als stores, which fell 0.6 per­cent; ap­parel stores, down 0.8 per­cent; and sport­ing goods,hobby,bookand­mu­sic stores, off 1.8 per­cent, the most since De­cem­ber, the data showed.

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