Automobiles power U.S. retail sales in March

Mae Love
April 16, 2018

Non-store retailers like Amazon continued to gain, rising 0.8 per cent for the month, putting them up almost 10 per cent over March of past year.

Economists are expecting a bounce back in the March data via a +0.4% m/m reading and +0.3% on the control group.

Electronics and appliance stores were up 1.6 percent year-over-year and up 0.5 percent from February seasonally adjusted. 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. For the year, that category enjoyed an increase of 0.8 percent in sales.

Consumer optimism has held at relatively high levels thanks to factors including job-market strength, rising wages and lower taxes.

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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.

Personal consumption and retail spending had disappointed analysts in recent months, feeding expectations the U.S. economy will see slower growth in the first quarter of the year. Some also argue that income tax cuts, which came into effect in January, only reflected on most workers' paychecks in late February. The numbers for March suggest consumers are once again willing to spend that to a mixture of good economic news and the impact of the tax cuts passed late a year ago.

Even with the bounceback, consumer spending probably expanded at a slower pace in the first quarter. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

Meanwhile, sales dropped at building material & garden equipment supplies dealers, clothing and accessories stores and sporting goods hobby, books and music.

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