March retail sales up more than expected
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. Socalled 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 improvement in 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 after a post-hurricane spending binge.
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 vehicle purchases rose to a 17.4 million annualized rate in March.