Automobiles drive USA retail sales higher in March

US President Donald Trump's heaviest tariffs on goods from China where shipping containers are

US President Donald Trump's heaviest tariffs on goods from China where shipping containers are

Economists largely blame the weakness in retail sales at the start of the year on delays in processing tax refunds.

US retail and food services sales in March came in at $494.6 billion, for an increase of 0.6 percent compared with February, the Census Bureau reported on Monday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected a 0.3% increase.

Retail sales-a measure of outlays at stores, restaurants and websites-increased a seasonally adjusted 0.6% in March from the prior month, the Commerce Department said Monday, beating economist expectations.

Core retail sales - excluding automobiles and parts - rose 0.2%.

And it added that gasoline stations sales rose 9.7% annually, and non-store retailers, which includes e-commerce, saw a 9.7% annual gain. That's more than double the overall retail sales gain in the past 12 months of 4.5 percent.

Health and personal care stores were up 0.4% year-over-year and up 1.4% from February seasonally adjusted. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product. "Consumer spending is growing at a moderate pace". January data was revised to show sales falling 0.2 percent instead of the previously reported 0.1 percent drop.

"This is a healthy spending report despite market volatility, unseasonable weather and uncertain economic policies", NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement. Prices for U.S. Treasuries were marginally lower while U.S. stock index futures rose slightly. In February, sales dropped 0.1% after a 0.2% drop in January and a 0.1% decline in December.

Sales were uneven across other segments last month.

Electronics and appliance stores were up 1.6% year-over-year and up 0.5% from February seasonally adjusted.

Meanwhile, sales dropped at building material & garden equipment supplies dealers, clothing and accessories stores and sporting goods hobby, books and music.

Discussions into reopening trade of pork between the USA and Argentina began past year as the import of United States pork into Argentina had been prohibited since 1992 - a de facto ban initiated by Argentina due to worries over parasite contamination of outdoor-reared pigs.

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