Retail sales rebounded in March following two soft months, as consumers stepped up their spending on cars, home furnishings and appliances, the Commerce Department said Monday. Gasoline Stations were up 9.7% from March 2017, while Nonstore Retailers were up 9.7% from a year ago.
Online and other non-store sales were up 7.6% year-over-year and up 0.8% over February seasonally adjusted.
The data on Monday also showed that a decline in gasoline costs, as reported last week in the Labor Department's consumer-price index, may have weighed on filling-station receipts.
Overall, retail sales rose 0.6 percent last month - the largest increase since November and the first increase since the end of the holiday shopping season.
Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity, grew at a robust 4.0 percent annualised rate in the fourth quarter. Compared with a year ago, however, auto sales didn't make that much difference: total retail sales were 4.5 percent higher when vehicle sales are factored out.
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But that's 26 cents higher than a year ago and would be the highest average summer price in the USA since 2014. Nationally, the price of unleaded gas as of Monday morning was $2.71 a gallon, according to AAA.
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Retail trade sales increased 0.6% from February and 4.7% from previous year. These so-called core retail sales, which correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, were previously reported to have risen 0.1 percent in February. Gas-station sales dropped 0.3 percent, the most since July, according to the Commerce report.
Grocery and beverage stores were up 5.9 percent year-over-year and up 0.2 percent from February.
But they fell at home and garden stores, clothing shops and sporting goods stores.