WASHINGTON, March 13 U.S. retail sales rose
slightly more than expected in February, pointing to some
strength in the economy after harsh weather abruptly slowed
activity in recent months.
The Commerce Department said on Thursday retail sales
increased 0.3 percent last month as receipts rose in most
categories. That followed a revised 0.6 percent drop in January
and ended two straight months of declines.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales,
which account for about 30 percent of consumer spending, rising
0.2 percent last month after a previously reported 0.4 percent
drop in January.
An unusually cold and snowy winter disrupted economic
activity at the end of 2013 and the beginning of this year.
Economists had expected only a marginal increase in retail sales
in February after snow and ice blanketed densely populated
regions during the first half of the month.
Sales are expected to accelerate in the spring as warmer
temperatures and improving household finances help to unleash
Rising homes values and share market prices, as well as some
uptick in wages, have left household balance sheets in much
better shape since the recovery started nearly five years ago.
So-called core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline,
building materials and food services, and correspond most
closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic
product, rose 0.3 percent.
That followed a revised 0.6 percent decline in January.
Economists had expected this category to rise 0.3 percent in
February after a previously reported 0.3 percent drop in
Retail sales last month were supported by a 0.3 percent rise
in receipts at automobile and parts dealers. That helped to
offset a 0.2 percent drop in sales at electronics and appliance
Receipts at building materials and garden equipment stores
increased 0.3 percent, likely as consumers bought snow removal
equipment. Sales there had risen 1.4 percent in January.
Sales at furniture stores rose 0.4 percent and receipts at
clothing stores climbed 0.4 percent after declining 1.8 percent
There were also gains in receipts at sporting goods shops
and restaurants, but sales at food and beverage stores fell as
did online sales.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)