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Retail sales increased in March


Retail sales rose 0.8 percent in March after a 1 percent boost in February, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Reuters reported.

Last month’s increase, which surpassed economists’ expectations, could prompt analysts to raise their forecasts for first-quarter consumer spending, Reuters said.

The economy grew at an annual rate of 3 percent rate in the fourth quarter and growth in the January through March period was seen at around 2.5 percent.

“On balance, I think it’s the latest sign here that the economy is outpacing a lot of its major counterparts in recovery,” Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington, told Reuters.

The rise in sales last month was broad-based, even though consumers paid 27 cents more per gallon for gasoline than they did the prior month.

Motor vehicle sales rose 0.9 percent after increasing 1.3 percent in February. Excluding autos, retail sales climbed 0.8 percent last month after advancing 0.9 percent in February.

Details of the report showed some strength, suggesting that consumer spending will continue to support growth. Clothing store receipts rose 0.9 percent, while sales at building materials and garden equipment suppliers jumped 3 percent – the largest gain since December.

Sales at restaurants and bars edged up 0.3 percent, while receipts at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores rose 0.5 percent. Sales of electronics and appliances increased 1 percent, the largest gain since October, while receipts at furniture stores climbed 1.1 percent.

Business sales increased 0.7 percent to a record $1.24 trillion in February, after advancing 0.4 percent the prior month. At February’s sales pace it will take 1.28 months for businesses to clear shelves, unchanged from January, Reuters said.

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