U.S. Retail Sales Soar 9.8% In March, Much More Than Expected

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Retail sales in the U.S. spiked by much more than expected in the month of March, according to a report released by the Commerce Department on Thursday.

The Commerce Department said retail sales skyrocketed by 9.8 percent in March after tumbling by a revised 2.7 percent in February.

Economists had expected retail sales to surge up by 5.9 percent compared to the 3.0 percent slump originally reported for the previous month.

The stronger than expected retail sales growth was partly due to a jump in sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers, which soared by 15.1 percent in March after plunging by 3.5 percent in February.

However, excluding the rebound in auto sales, retail sales still spiked by 8.4 percent in March after tumbling by a revised 2.5 percent in February. Ex-auto sales were expected to jump by 5.0 percent.

The report showed substantial increases in sales by sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores, clothing and accessories stores and food service and drinking places.

"Relative to pre-pandemic levels, food and drink services sales are down just 5.1%, while clothing store sales are now higher than they were in February 2020," said Michael Pearce, Senior U.S. Economist at Capital Economics.

He added, "That suggests a combination of loosening restrictions and easing of virus fears linked to the vaccine rollout are driving a rapid return to normalcy."

Closely watched core retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, also surged up by 6.9 percent in March after slumping by 3.4 percent in February.

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