US Retail Sales Up .6 Percent After Three Straight Months of Declines

17 April, 2018, 19:03 | Author: Terri Saunders
  • US retail sales rebounds in March, consumer spending to grow healthily through 2018

US retail sales rebounded in March after three straight monthly declines as households boosted purchases of motor vehicles and other big-ticket items, suggesting consumer spending was heading into the second quarter with momentum.

U.S. retail sales rose for the first time in four months in March, boosted by a large increase in automobile purchases, but in real terms were weaker than expected by some economists.

Excluding the jump in auto sales, retail sales edged up by 0.2 percent in March, matching the uptick seen in the previous month as well as economist estimates.

Retail sales-a measure of outlays at stores, restaurants and websites-increased a seasonally adjusted 0.6% in March from the prior month, the Commerce Department said Monday, beating economist expectations. Economists had expected retail sales to rise by 0.4 percent. Strong March sales could be a sign consumers are beginning to spend savings realized due to changes in the tax law, and their tax refunds, which for many were delayed this year.

Consumers shook off stormy weather last month to deliver retail sales growth. Last month's figures suggest Americans are returning to more free-spending ways.

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The results come as NRF is forecasting that 2018 retail sales will grow between 3.8% and 4.4% over 2017. The percentage also places retail sales up 4.5% in March from a year ago.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity, grew at a robust 4.0 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter. The rise was mainly driven by a 2 percent growth in motor vehicle & parts dealers; however gains were comparatively broad based throughout categories. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

The modest increase in ex-auto sales partly reflected a 1.4 percent spike in sales by health and personal care stores. But sales at building material stores fell 0.6 percent last month. On a year-on-year basis, building material sales rose a sound 5.3 percent year-on-year, and the fall in March probably reflects a give back after post-hurricane rebuilding activity in earlier months, noted TD Economics in a research report.

Sporting goods stores were down 0.9% year-over-year and down 1.8% from February seasonally adjusted.

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