By John S. McClenahen At $300.3 billion in April, a 1.2% increase from March, U.S. retail sales were significantly stronger than expected. Economists generally were looking for a 0.6% month-to-month rise. At the same time, revisions to some previously released U.S. Commerce Department retail sales data were minor -- and upward, notes Maury Harris, chief U.S. economist at UBS Warburg LLC, New York. New data show February's increase from January's level to be have been 0.5%, a tenth of a percentage point higher than the 0.4% initially reported. March's gain, however, remained the same at 0.1%. "In short, [April was] a much-stronger-than-expected report," says Harris. "Although retail sales are volatile, the data point to total real consumption starting [the second quarter of 2002] up at about a 4% annual rate."