U.S. retail sales remained strong in the month of March, according to figures released Monday by the Commerce Department, although the rate of sales growth slowed somewhat from February levels.
Advance estimates put the total level of U.S. retail sales at a seasonally adjusted $411.1 billion for March, an increase of 0.8 percent over February levels.
While February's retail figures were revised down slightly to show 1 percent growth rather than the 1.1 percent increase initially reported, the March sales growth came in significantly stronger than the 0.3 percent growth predicted by economists.
March marks the tenth consecutive month of expanding retail sales, according to Commerce Department figures.
Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said, "Now, before we bust a move on this better-than-expected report, note that there could be a timing issue….the early April Easter holiday may have pulled sales ahead to March."
"Nonetheless, holiday or no holiday, the decent results are reassuring, particularly after the spate of disappointing numbers out recently," she added.
Automotive sales remained strong in February, posting 0.9 percent growth for the month compared to the 1.3 percent increase seen in February.
Excluding the increase in auto sales, retail sales still rose by 0.8 percent in March following a 0.9 percent increase in the previous month.
Gas station sales also showed a notable increase, rising by 1.1 percent, although non-gasoline sales at the retail level were still up by 0.7 percent. Excluding both automotive and gasoline sales, retail sales rose 0.7 percent.
The strongest growth in retail sales was recorded by sellers of building materials, garden equipment and supplies, which saw sales jump 3 percent.
Furniture and home furnishing stores, electronics and appliance stores and clothing stores also saw strong sales growth.
While most of the other sectors also saw sales growth, miscellaneous store retailers saw a 0.8 percent drop in sales and sales by health and personal care stores edged down by 0.2 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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