Sales at U.S. retailers declined in March for a second month, hurt by fewer purchases of automobiles, Commerce Department data showed Friday.
• Value of purchases fell 0.2 percent (in line with median forecast) after February sales were revised to a 0.3 percent decrease (previously reported as a 0.1 percent gain)
• Retail control-group sales, which are used to calculate GDP and exclude the categories of food services, auto dealers, building materials outlets and gasoline stations, rose 0.5 percent after falling 0.2 percent
Over the last three months, retail control-group sales increased an annualized 4.1 percent, compared with 3.8 percent at the end of last year
Sales declined in six of 13 major retail categories in March. While household outlays are projected to cool in the first quarter, steady hiring, healthier household balance sheets and more optimistic consumers will probably underpin spending. A confidence report Thursday showed a favorable buying climate for big-ticket items.
Tax refunds, which had been delayed earlier this year, may help provide more wherewithal for consumers in the months ahead.
The report also helps explain why retailers have been cutting jobs this year and closing stores, with Internet sales outpacing purchases at brick-and-mortar merchants.
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