Robust Auto Sales Push March Retail Total Above Expectations

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U.S. consumer spending increased by 4.5% year over year to $494.6 billion in March, as well as up 0.6% month over month from a downwardly revised February total of $491.8 billion. The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce released the estimated retail sales data for March Wednesday morning. A poll of economists had forecast that retail sales would rise 0.4% compared with sales in February sales.

Sales of motor vehicles rose 2% month over month from February and rose 4.5% compared with March 2017. Car sales totaled $93.74 billion last month on an adjusted basis, up from $91.9 billion in February and up from $93.2 billion in March 2016.

Total sales for the three-month period between January and March rose 5.2% compared with year-ago totals.

Retail trade sales rose 0.6% month over month and jumped 4.7% year over year. Nonstore retail sales rose 9.7% year over year. Month over month, nonstore retail sales rose 0.8%.

Gasoline station sales dipped 0.3% month over month but are up 9.7% year over year. The increase is due largely to higher pump prices.

Electronics stores posted a sales increase of 0.5% month over month and a year-over-year increase of 1% in sales. Department stores posted a month-over-month sales decrease of 0.3% and a year-over-year decline of 0.9%.

Sales of building materials and garden supplies fell 0.6% month over month but were 5.3% higher year over year.

Food services and bar sales rose 0.4% month over month and rose 3.1% year over year.

Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores posted a month-over-month sales drop of 1.8% and a year-over-year drop of 3.31%.