Tuesday, 24 April, 2018

Economy Watch: Retail Sales See Healthy Uptick in March

Boston Red Sox's Hanley Ramirez left speaks with Carlos Arredondo right after Arredondo threw out a ceremonial first pitch before the start of a baseball game between the Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles Sunday Retail Sales Rose 0.6% in March
Russell Knight | 16 April, 2018, 22:09

Non-store retailers - primarily e-commerce and catalog businesses - and gas stations tied for the best gain, each with sales up 9.7% from March a year ago.

Last month's pick-up in core retail sales did little to change expectations of a sharp slowdown in consumer spending in the first quarter.

Retail sales were up 0.6 percent for March - more than expected and a figure considered significant by most analysts. Some also argue that income tax cuts, which came into effect in January, only reflected on most workers' paychecks in late February.

Increases for those categories, together for autos, economists at Barclays Research said, was likely due to the fall in tax withholding rates.

Gas station receipts fell by 0.3 percent in March - the largest drop since July - largely due to cheaper gasoline.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity, grew at a robust 4.0 percent annualised rate in the fourth quarter. But most expect it will rebound in the second quarter and top 3 percent.

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Non-store retailers like Amazon continued to gain, rising 0.8 per cent for the month, putting them up almost 10 per cent over March of a year ago.

Economists forecast overall economic growth slowed to below 2 percent at an annual pace in the first quarter, after a 2.9 percent gain in the fourth quarter. Sales at furniture stores climbed 0.7 percent while those at electronics and appliance stores increased 0.5 percent. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies stores were off 0.6 percent for the month, though they were up 5.3 percent for the year.

The higher spending could support GDP growth in the first quarter, which is expected to be sluggish.

The other major winning retail category for the month was health and personal care stores, which spiked 1.4 percent compared with February. Bars and restaurants gained 0.4 per cent. The survey's measure of future business conditions dropped to a more than two-year low.

"This is a healthy spending report despite market volatility, unseasonable weather and to uncertain economic policies", said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz.

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