There were $494.6 billion in retail and food service sales in March, up 0.6% from the previous month and 4.5% from March 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
U.S retail sales recovered in March, rising 0.6 percent after falling 0.1 percent in the prior month. Excluding automobiles and gasoline, sales advanced 0.3 percent for a second month. Compared with a year ago, however, auto sales didn't make that much difference: total retail sales were 4.5 percent higher when vehicle sales are factored out. Gasoline Stations were up 9.7% from March 2017, while Nonstore Retailers were up 9.7% from past year.
Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of USA economic activity, grew at a robust 4.0 percent annualised rate in the fourth quarter. Control-group sales rose at a 1 percent annualized rate over the last three months, compared with 7.6 percent in the three months through December. Also up for the month, each by less than 1 percent, were furniture stores, electronics stores. grocery stores, restaurants and of course non-store (Internet) sales, which were up 0.8 percent.
"Our latest Quarterly Forecast calls for healthy consumer spending through the remainder of 2018, with growth in the neighborhood of 2.5 percent-3.0 percent annualized", added TD Economics.
"This month's decline in the Empire State six-month forward index may reflect trade-related uncertainties and the associated volatility of stocks, or other factors", said Roiana Reid, an economist at Berenberg Capital Markets in NY.
The modest increase in ex-auto sales partly reflected a 1.4 percent spike in sales by health and personal care stores.
But they fell at home and garden stores, clothing shops and sporting goods stores.