Retail sales up sharply 1.0% in February on strong auto and gas sales

Retail sales spiked in Feb as auto sales zoomed higher and gas prices jumped.  Other components continued strong.  Overall retail sales grew 1% which was in line with expectations.  For perspective, Jan and Dec numbers were 0.3% and 0.5% respectively.

The February jump was led by a 2.3% increase in auto sales and parts with gas up 1.4%. Nearly all other major components also grew including sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores, up 1.3%, and food & drinking up 1.2%. Outside food and drink is somewhat discretionary and is very telling of increased disposable income.  The weakest major component was the housing-depressed furniture & home furnishings category, down a monthly 0.8%. 

Overall retail sales on a year-ago basis in February rose to 8.9% from 8.1% the month before. Excluding motor vehicles, sales were up a year-ago 6.0%, compared to 6.4% in Jan.

Despite price effects, the latest retail sales numbers reflect a strong showing by the consumer. The Feb numbers will have economists revising their estimates for first quarter GDP upward. Via Census:
The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for February, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $387.1 billion, an increase of 1.0 percent (±0.5%) from the previous month, and 8.9 percent (±0.7%) above February 2010. Total sales for the December 2010 through February 2011 period were up 8.2 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The December 2010 to January 2011 percent change was revised from +0.3 percent (±0.5%)* to +0.7 percent (±0.3%).

Retail trade sales were up 0.9 percent (±0.5%) from January 2011, and 9.5 percent (±0.7%) above last year. Auto and other motor vehicle dealers sales were up 25.9 percent (±2.5%) from February 2010 and gasoline stations sales were up 12.9 percent (±1.7%) from last year.

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