Retail Sales Rose in March As Consumers Spent on Cars, Appliances

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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. The 0.3% sequential increase from February to March was ahead of the 0.2% gain from January to February, as well as the 4.3% annual jump in February. For the year, that category enjoyed an increase of 0.8 percent in sales. For the year, auto sales were up 4.5 percent. Total retail sales in the first quarter of 2018 were up as well, by 4.1 percent compared with the same quarter in 2017.

Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales rose 0.4 percent last month after being unchanged in February.

Economists saw a limited impact on retail sales for now from a recent ebb in consumer sentiment, citing a robust labour market, which is steadily pushing up wage growth. Compared with a year ago, however, auto sales didn't make that much difference: total retail sales were 4.5 percent higher when vehicle sales are factored out.

Gas station receipts fell by 0.3 percent in March - the largest drop since July - largely due to cheaper gasoline.

Read the Census release.

Looking into the details, sales for furniture, electronics and appliances, health and personal care, and non-store retailers rose in the month.

Economists largely blame the weakness in retail sales at the start of the year on delays in processing tax refunds.

A solid March result helps in setting the second quarter up for a healthy rebound with consumer spending expected to expand by around 3 percent, stated TD Economics.

Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 6.1% year-over-year but down 0.8% from February seasonally adjusted. Bars and restaurants gained 0.4 per cent.

"This month's decline in the Empire State six-month forward index may reflect trade-related uncertainties and the associated volatility of stocks, or other factors", said Roiana Reid, an economist at Berenberg Capital Markets in NY.

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