Retail sales see varying gains in March, says Commerce and NRF data

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U.S. retail sales increased more than a half-percent last month, the U.S. Commerce Department said Monday - a sign of greater-than-expected consumer confidence.

Online and other non-store sales were up 7.6% year-over-year and up 0.8% over February seasonally adjusted. Sales at health and personal-care stores rose 1.4 percent, the most in two years.

USA retail sales rose by more than expected in March in the first gain in four months, suggesting consumer demand regained steam on the back of tax cuts and refunds. Without vehicle sales, the total retail sales gain for the month was 0.2 percent.

Economists saw a limited impact on retail sales for now from a recent ebb in consumer sentiment, citing a robust labour market, which is steadily pushing up wage growth. Retail sales alone increased 4.7% from a year ago and 0.6% from February. So-called retail control-group sales, which are used to calculate gross domestic product and exclude food services, auto dealers, building-materials stores and gasoline stations, gained 0.4 percent, matching estimates. "People were so built up on the economy and tax cuts, but our view is that it's more steady than acceleration".

Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 6.1% year-over-year but down 0.8% from February seasonally adjusted.

Sales at home furnishing stores rose 0.7 per cent, and were up 0.5 per cent at electronics stores.

Sporting goods stores were down 0.9 percent year-over-year and down 1.8 percent from February seasonally adjusted.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index for April, released Monday, fell one point to 69.

"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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