Led by a big gain in electronics, U.S. retail sales increased 0.3% to a seasonally-adjusted $355.5 billion in February, despite three major snow storms in the East, the Commerce Department estimated Friday.
Sales have risen in four of the past five months, and were up 3.9% compared with a year earlier. Most categories of retailers recorded month-over-month increases in February, driving sales to their biggest percentage gain since November, the government said. Auto and truck sales were one exception, falling 2% compared with January. Sales at health- and personal-care stores dropped the most in six years. Excluding autos and trucks, retail sales increased 0.8% to $297.7 billion in February, the largest gain since November.
The storms had “no noticeable effect on retail sales,” wrote Brian Fabbri, an economist for BNP Paribas. Sales at non-store retailers, such as catalogs and online stores, were unchanged. “While we are not expecting the consumer to come roaring back in the near-term, improvements have been quicker than expected considering the still-distressed state of the labor market,” wrote Adam York, an economist for Wells Fargo Securities.
February sales were better than expected. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch were expecting February sales to be unchanged, and for sales excluding autos to rise 0.1%.
Retail reflects the real estate market in some way: February was brutally cold and stormy, yet sales were brisk. We ponder what sales will produce when the weather warms up….and it is…..and we are seeing LOTS of activity in the luxury real estate market. March’s figures will be interesting indeed!