Retail sales were a lot better than economists expected in March, as the war didn't keep consumers from making various typical spring purchases, the government said.
The Commerce Department said retail sales rose 2.1% to $311.5 billion, their best increase since October 2001, after a revised decline of 1.3% in February. Cars and home improvement materials helped goose the March increase, which was above the 0.6% increase forecast by economists.
Excluding autos, the increase was 1.1%, compared with expectations of a 0.4% gain. Building materials sales rose 7.9% in March, after a 5.8% fall in February, suggesting that the bad weather of the previous month caused demand to build up. Sales at furniture and home furnishing stores gained 1.5%. At clothing stores, sales rose 1.1%.
Cars and car part sales rose 5.3% in March following a 3.7% decline in February.