WASHINGTON (4/15/14)--Retail sales numbers jumped 1.1% in March, a gain not seen since the fall of 2012, Moody's reported Monday. Analysts had forecasted a 0.8% increase, but thanks to a surge in auto sales, numbers exceeded expectations (Economy.com April 14).
In addition to auto sales, many other segments of the market saw improvements, including general merchandise and building supplies. Gasoline and electronics sales reported some of the only declines (MarketWatch April 14).
Excluding auto sales, which by itself saw a 3.1% climb from February's numbers, retail sales ramped up by 0.7%, which also is the biggest step increase since February 2013.
Without the sizable drop in gas station numbers, sales ticked up 1.4%, which is the largest increase in four years, according to Moody's.
"U.S. consumers are back in the game after the weather-induced slump in spending in earlier months," said Milan Mulraine, TD Securities economist in the MarketWatch article, adding that the overall tone of the report had been "unambiguously constructive."
Over the last year, retail sales have swelled by 3.8%, with strong gains expected to continue this year as the winter weather dismounts.
A combination of record-high stock prices and improving housing prices is helping push the sales upswing, while pent-up demand for items such as automobiles also has contributed.
"As long as interest rates remain contained and events overseas do not disrupt economic activity, confidence will rise and more pent-up demand will be released," said Moody's in its analysis. "Gradually increasing access to credit will be another support."