Auto sales surged in March, sending the U.S. retail sector higher for the first time in four months, helped by increased spending in other areas, according to government data released on Monday (Apr 16). February's number was upwardly revised to reflect a 0.1% decrease. Economists had expected retail sales to rise by 0.4 percent.
The three-month moving average was up 4.8 percent over the same period a year ago, and the results come as NRF is forecasting that 2018 retail sales will grow between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent over 2017. The January 2018 to February 2018 percent change was unrevised from down 0.1%.
Released at the same time, the April Empire Fed is forecast to slip to +18.6 from +22.5 but the market reaction will be driven by the retail sales report.
That's when the March report on retail sales is due.
Excluding the jump in auto sales, retail sales edged up by 0.2 percent in March, matching the uptick seen in the previous month as well as economist estimates.More news: Chopped Romaine Lettuce Linked to E. Coli Outbreak
Even with the bounceback, consumer spending probably expanded at a slower pace in the first quarter. Compared with March 2017, the total is 4.7 percent higher. "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 percent year-over-year but down 0.8 percent from February seasonally adjusted.
Sales rose at grocery stores, restaurants and bars, and drug stores.
Sales by non-store retailers and furniture and home furnishing stores also saw notable growth, although the increases were partly offset by a steep drop in sales by sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores.
While the stock market volatility has not yet impacted on consumer spending, it is chipping away at business confidence.