Adding to the sense of strength was a sharp upward revision to February sales.Excluding the 3.1% rise in auto sales, retail sales rose 0.7%, the fastest pace since February 2013.Excluding the 1.3% drop in gasoline station sales, sales rose 1.4%, the biggest rise since March 2010. Excluding both autos and gas, sales rose 1%, the fastest pace since February 2012.
The overall tone of this report was unambiguously constructive, underscoring that U.S. consumers are back in the game after the weather-induced slump in spending in earlier months.Stock futures were higher after the retail sales report was released.Treasury prices moved lower.
Retail sales in February were revised to a 0.7% gain, much stronger than the initial estimate of a 0.3% increase.
In the past year, retail sales are up 3.8%.The firm report adds to the perception that the U.S. economy took a turn for the better in March as the weather warmed up.
But it will take several months to know for sure whether this strong spending can be sustained.The gains in retail sales in March were widespread.Particular strength came from sales at general merchandise stores, which had their biggest gain since March 2007.
Auto sales increased 3.1% in March, the biggest rise since September 2012.Sales last month sped up to a 16.4 million annual rate — matching a post-recession high — from 15.3 million in February. Auto dealerships account for about one-fifth of all retail spending.Sales at furniture stores increased 1%. Sales at building materials stores rose 1.8%.
The two sector of weakness were gas station sales, which fell 1.3% and sales at electronic stores which dropped 1.6%.