April 16 - U.S. retail sales jumped in March after a healthy gain in February as the American consumer kept spending despite higher gasoline costs. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Retailers got a pleasant surprise from the American consumer in March. Total retail sales rose 0.8 percent last month, which far exceeded economists forecasts, and that follows up a slightly downwardly revised 1.0 percent gain in February. The rise defied expectations of a slowdown in spending caused by higher gasoline prices. Some economists note those higher gasoline costs were offset by lower home-heating bills due to unusually warmer temperatures. A stronger consumer is a positive indicator of economic growth, which gets two-thirds of its strength from shopping activity. Therefore, economists are fine-tuning expectations as the data suggest the economy may not have slowed down as much as feared in the opening months of the year. Conway Gittens, Reuters