Economy Watch: Retail Sales See Healthy Uptick in March

Retail Sales Rose 0.6% in March

Auto sales surged in March, sending the U.S. retail sector higher for the first time in four months, helped by increased spending in other areas, according to government data released on Monday (Apr 16).

March furniture and home furnishings stores sales increased 3.9% from the same month a year ago, trailing the 4.7% growth for the broad retail sector, the government reported Monday. The market analysts are looking for consensus of 0.4% increase compared to a decline of 0.1% in the prior month.

That's when the March report on retail sales is due. Non-store retailers - primarily e-commerce and catalog businesses - and gas stations tied for the best gain, each with sales up 9.7% from March previous year. Refunds from 2017 returns may have also given retail sales a boost in March.

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The higher spending could support GDP growth in the first quarter, which is expected to be sluggish.

Personal consumption and retail spending had disappointed analysts in recent months, feeding expectations the USA economy will see slower growth in the first quarter of the year. "People were so built up on the economy and tax cuts, but our view is that it's more steady than acceleration".

Home furnishings store sales grew to $9.93 billion, up from a revised $9.55 billion in March of past year, the U.S. Department of Commerce said.

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Sales at home furnishing stores rose 0.7 per cent, and were up 0.5 per cent at electronics stores.

Meanwhile, sales dropped at building material & garden equipment supplies dealers, clothing and accessories stores and sporting goods hobby, books and music. Sales at restaurants and bars gained 0.4 percent.

"This is a healthy spending report despite market volatility, unseasonable weather and uncertain economic policies", NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

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