Retail Sales Rose in March as Consumers Spent on Cars, Appliances

(CN) — Retail sales rebounded in March following two soft months, as consumers stepped up their spending on cars, home furnishings and appliances, the Commerce Department said Monday.

Overall, retail sales rose 0.6 percent last month — the largest increase since November and the first increase since the end of the holiday shopping season.

Among the brightest spots in Monday’s report was auto sales, which jumped 2 percent, the most in six months.

Retail sales surged in November and December, in advance of the winter holiday, then slid in January and February. The numbers for March suggest consumers are once again willing to spend that to a mixture of good economic news and the impact of the tax cuts passed late last year.

Online retail sales increased 0.8 percent in March and have risen nearly 10 percent compared to a year ago. That’s more than double the overall retail sales gain in the past 12 months of 4.5 percent.

Sales rose at grocery stores, restaurants and bars, and drug stores.

But they fell at home and garden stores, clothing shops and sporting goods stores.

In other economic news Monday, confidence among homebuilders continued to slide for the fourth consecutive month as steadily rising mortgage rates and sky-high home prices put ownership out of reach for more Americans.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index for April, released Monday, fell one point to 69.

Any reading above 50 indicates more builders see sales conditions as good rather than poor, but it’s the longest decline since the housing bust.

The index has been above 60 since September 2016.

Builders’ view of current sales conditions fell two points to 75, the outlook for sales over the next six months fell one point, to 77. A measure of buyer traffic held steady at 51.

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