US retail sales improve as recovery gains momentum
US retail sales recorded their largest gain in one and a half years in March, in the latest sign the economy there is emerging from its weather-induced slumber and on track to accelerate in the second quarter of the year.
The US Commerce Department said yesterday that retail sales increased 1.1pc last month, the biggest rise since September 2012, as receipts rose in nearly all categories. Retail sales, which account for a third of consumer spending, had risen by a revised 0.7pc in February.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales, advancing 0.8pc last month after a previously reported 0.3pc gain in February.
Retail sales added to employment data in suggesting the economy found momentum at the end of the first quarter after an unusually cold and snowy winter disrupted economic activity at the end of 2013 and the beginning of this year.
So-called core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, and correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, increased 0.8pc in March.
That followed a revised 0.4pc rise in February. Core retail sales had previously been reported to have increased 0.3pc in February.
Despite the two months of gains, a drop in core sales in January suggests consumer spending will slow substantially from the fourth quarter's brisk 3.3pc pace. (Reuters)
Retail sales last month were buoyed by a 3.1pc surge in receipts at automobile and parts dealers. That was the biggest advance since September 2012.