March retail sales up 0.8%

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 16, 2012 8:41 AM
March retail sales up 0.8%

WASHINGTON, Apr 16 (IFR) - Retail sales rose by 0.8% in March and for the third month, 'core' retail (excluding gas and autos) showed solid growth. March's gain is some two times larger than expected after February's 1% advance (originally up 1.1%), when the market thought there would be slowed activity after February's accommodative weather had pulled consumption forward.

It is true that some businesses' sales dropped from February (especially apparel and sporting good stores), but overall retail kept its pace. Sales are up 6.5% from last March. Retail excluding cars rose by 0.8% after having been up 0.9% in February and 1.2% in January.

Even more supportive to this trend of monthly consumption gains even without prices influencing values, sales excluding gasoline and autos have also continued on a 3-month stint of respectable increases.

They were just up 0.7% in March, following increases up 0.5% and 1.1% in February and January respectively. Car sales were up 0.9% in March after having been up 1.3%, matching auto industry data showing revamped consumption of cars since late 2011.

Sales at gasoline stations rose by 1.1% compared to March's jump of 3.6%. The difference in some ways reflects the decelerated increases to prices before and after February. Nearly all kinds of stores experienced higher sales in March, with the exception of health stores, where sales fell 0.2% after having been up 0.4%. Clothing stores rose by 0.9% which is lower than its prior month's increase of 2.4%.

Sporting goods (up 0.5%) and restaurants (up 0.3%)followed the same pattern of softer monthly growth. On the other hand, there were some businesses that experienced a pickup in activity.

Furniture sales rose 1.1% in March after having been down 1.0% in February. Electronics were up 1% (had been up 0.4%), building materials jumped by 3% (after a gain of 0.7%) and grocery stores rose by 0.4% after having been flat.