U.S. Retail Sales Up in March

Warm weather pushed sales up 0.8%.

Unseasonably warm weather that boosted the construction sector helped drive U.S. retail sales in March, Commerce Department figures showed on April 16.

Overall retail and food service sales expanded by 0.8% last month, according to preliminary estimates, compared to February's 1% expansion.

Despite the month-to-month slowdown, the pace of growth was solid, and marked a 6.5 percent increase from March 2011.

The first-quarter growth was also 6.4 percent higher than the year-earlier period.

Near-record warm temperatures in many places across the country appeared to help drive a 3% surge in the month in sales of building materials and garden supplies.

But sales growth was sluggish at restaurants and bars, and at grocery stores and pharmacies, adding just 0.3%-0.4%, according to Commerce Department data.

"Retail sales beat expectations nicely... helping quell worries about the impact of high gasoline prices," said Jennifer Lee of BMO Capital Markets.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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