Retail Sales Beat Forecasts, Bolster Recovery Hopes

Retail salesSurprising economists who were expecting a decline, the U.S. Commerce Department reported a 0.3 percent increase in retail sales for February, raising hopes of a stronger recovery from the worst recession in decades.
U.S. retail and food services sales for February were $355.5 billion, an increase of 0.3 percent from the previous month and 3.9 percent above February 2009, Commerce reported.
The increase came despite negative factors weighing on retail sectors, such as severe winter weather and Toyota’s widely publicized recall which strained auto sales industry-wide. Automotive-related sales were down 2.0 percent in February.
Economists had forecast as much as a 0.3 percent decrease in the overall retail sales figure.
Commerce also reported that total sales for the December 2009 through February 2010 period were up 4.5 percent from the same period a year ago. The December 2009 to January 2010 percent change was revised from a 0.5 percent increase to a 0.1 percent increase.
Retail sales may hold their momentum this month as auto sales have been boosted by 0 percent financing incentives started by Toyota last week. General Motors and Ford followed suit with their own zero-APR offers.
If auto industry-related sales are factored out, retail sales rose 0.8 percent, the biggest jump in three months.
Electronics and appliance stores registered the largest increase at 3.7 percent.

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