Economic Watch: March Retail Sales Post Biggest Hike Since 2012
April 14, 2014
Retail sales in the U.S. increased in March by its biggest margin since September 2012, according to a new Commerce Department Report.
The 1.1% increase from the month before comes as February’s figures was revised upward from a 0.3% increase to a 0.7% gain, following declines in January and December.
The increase was higher than a consensus forecast from economists.
Compared to a year ago the March retail sales level is 3.8% higher.
Helping to lead the increase was a 3.1% jump in auto sales form the month before, the best gain since September 2012, while sales at general merchandise stores increased 1.9%, the best hike since March 2007 and before the Great Recession.
Total retail sales minus autos was 0.3% higher in March than in February, the biggest increase in more than a year.
“After months of winter weather slowing consumer's ability to spend out in the market place, there appears to be somewhat of a spring rebound in goods spending. But while a welcomed sign, we expect this rebound to be short lived as consumers weren't just confined to their homes but busy spending elsewhere from December to February, most notably on healthcare services and utilities,” said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at the investment firm Sterne Agee.
“With premiums on the rise and families struggling to combat the cold, consumers were forced to cut back on goods consumption for service purchases,” she said. “Hardly a trend of across-the-board growth in consumption indicative of a strong consumer, with goods purchases on the rise, service spending is then likely to proportionately suffer on the flip side.”
Other analysts were more bullish on the report with one saying it is evidence the “economy is bouncing back” after a downturn during a severe winter.