Friday, March 12, 2010

Retail Sales Rise 0.3 Percent In February

Retail sales posted a surprising increase in February as consumers did not let major snowstorms stop them from storming the malls. The advance, the biggest since November, provided hope that the recovery from the Great Recession is gaining momentum. 

The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales rose 0.3 percent in February, surpassing expectations that sales would decline by 0.2 percent.

Consumer spending is being watched carefully because it accounts for 70 percent of total economic activity. Economists have been worried that the economic recovery they believe began last summer could falter if consumer spending begins to lag. The better-than-expected February gain could ease those concerns.
Economists are hoping that businesses, which have shed 8.4 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007, will soon start rehiring laid off workers. That would give households the incomes they need to support spending growth. 

Some analysts had suspected that the February retail sales report could offer a surprise on the upside given encouraging news last week from the nation's big retail chains. 

The International Council of Shopping Centers had reported that sales jumped 3.7 percent in February compared to a year ago, the biggest gain since November 2007, the month before the recession began. That marked the third consecutive increase. 

Shoppers shrugged off major snowstorms to visit a broad array of merchants from luxury retailer Nordstrom to middlebrow Macy's Inc. to discounter Target Corp. All three chains reported solid sales increases that beat analysts expectations. 

US Dept of Commerce; Wall Street Journal

No comments: