Clothing helps lift USA retail sales in March

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Spending at US retailers rose broadly in March, rebounding after a weak start this year for consumer spending despite a solid labor market and growing worker paychecks.

With auto sales rebounding strongly, the Commerce Department released a report on Monday showing retail sales in the USA increased by more than anticipated in the month of March. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected a 0.3% increase.

The March numbers, which exclude automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants, include a 7.6% rise year-over-year in online and other non-store sales, which were up 0.8% on February seasonally adjusted.

And it added that gasoline stations sales rose 9.7% annually, and non-store retailers, which includes e-commerce, saw a 9.7% annual gain. Excluding autos, sales were up just 0.2 percent.

The three-month moving average was up 4.8% over the same period a year ago, and the results come as NRF is forecasting that 2018 retail sales will grow between 3.8% and 4.4% over 2017.

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Consumer spending is the main driver of the USA economy, accounting for more than two-thirds of economic output.

Retail sales are closely watched by economists because they provide an early read on consumer spending, the principal driver of the USA economy. For the year, vehicle sales were up 4.5 percent.

"This is a healthy spending report despite market volatility, unseasonable weather and to uncertain economic policies", said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. "As such we look for a more positive contribution from consumer spending to overall GDP growth in 2Q18". "Consumer spending is growing at a moderate pace". Moves in that category often reflect changes in fuel prices. Sales also improved stores that sell furniture, electronics, restaurants, grocery stores, and personal care. They fell at home and garden stores, clothing shops and sporting goods stores.

The organization said that the three-month moving average for the first quarter increased 4.8% annually, with total 2018 retail sales estimated to see an annual gain between 3.8%-to-4.4%.

United States retail sales rose for the first time in four months in March, boosted by a large increase in automobile purchases, but in real terms were weaker than expected by some economists.

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