Retail Sales Rose in March As Consumers Spent on Cars, Appliances

US Retail Sales Rose 0.6% in March

USA retail and food services sales in March came in at $494.6 billion, for an increase of 0.6 percent compared with February, the Census Bureau reported on Monday.

March furniture and home furnishings stores sales increased 3.9% from the same month previous year, trailing the 4.7% growth for the broad retail sector, the government reported Monday. This was borne out in the "control group" used in calculating GDP, which excludes gasoline, autos, building materials, and food services, and was up a sound 0.4 percent on the month, matching market projections. Sales at non-store retailers grew 9.7 percent year-on-year, led by sound rises in online shopping.

Economists largely blame the weakness in retail sales at the start of the year on delays in processing tax refunds. March snapped a three-month stretch of sequential declines for monthly retail sales. It is expected to have slowed to below a 1.5 percent rate of increase in the first quarter.

"Our latest Quarterly Forecast calls for healthy consumer spending through the remainder of 2018, with growth in the neighborhood of 2.5 percent-3.0 percent annualized", added TD Economics.

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The modest increase in ex-auto sales partly reflected a 1.4 percent spike in sales by health and personal care stores. Gas-station sales dropped 0.3 percent, the most since July, according to the Commerce report. Sales at restaurants and bars gained 0.4 percent.

While the stock market volatility has not yet impacted on consumer spending, it is chipping away at business confidence.

"Overall, consumer spending has been disappointing in 1Q18, which is partially weather-related, but today's report suggests the slowdown was transitory", said James Knightley, Chief International Economist at ING.

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