Published: Tue, April 17, 2018
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Retail sales rebound in sign consumer weakness fading

Retail sales rebound in sign consumer weakness fading

Commerce reported that March was up 0.6% compared to February at $494.6 billion and was up 4.5% compared to March 2017.

Sporting goods stores were down 0.9% year-over-year and down 1.8% from February seasonally adjusted. Sales at restaurants and bars gained 0.4 percent.

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. For the year, that category enjoyed an increase of 0.8 percent in sales. That supports the Federal Reserve's view that such weakness was transitory, as well as the central bank's outlook for two or three more interest-rate increases this year following a quarter-point hike in March.

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"In short, a solid gain, but if anything a bit weaker in the key details than generally expected", said Jim O'Sullivan, chief USA economist at High Frequency Economics. "If you look at the quarter as a whole, we're not breaking out from the kind of real spending numbers we've seen the last several years". It came in slightly above market projections of a rise of 0.4 percent. Year-over-year core sales increased 4.5%.

The other major winning retail category for the month was health and personal care stores, which spiked 1.4 percent compared with February. On Monday, the Commerce Department released US retail sales data for March.

It looks like vehicle sales helped the bump.

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Economists forecast overall economic growth slowed to below 2 percent at an annual pace in the first quarter, after a 2.9 percent gain in the fourth quarter. "People were so built up on the economy and tax cuts, but our view is that it's more steady than acceleration".

USA 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. January data was revised to show sales falling 0.2 per cent instead of the previously reported 0.1 per cent drop. 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.

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