US retail sales picked up significantly last month, boosted by a large increase in automobile purchases.
Total sales grew at a 0.6% month-on-month pace in March to reach $509.4bn, according to the Department of Commerce.
Excluding sales of automobiles on the other hand, they were up by a more pedestrian 0.2%.
Economists had forecast a 0.4% increase in headline sales on the month, with sales excluding autos having been seen up by 0.2%.
Sales of furniture and home furnishings were also strong, growing by 0.7% versus the month before, alongside an increase of 0.5% in electronics and appliance store sales.
Gasoline station sales on the other hand dipped by 0.3%, while those of clothing and accessories decreased by 0.8% and those at sporting goods stores fell by 1.8%.
In comparison to a year ago, total retail sales were up by 4.5%.
“Our measure of core sales, which strips out autos, gasoline and food, rose 0.3% for the second straight month, following small declines in Dec/Jan,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
“The story here is that sales rocketed after the hurricanes as people replaced lost or damaged items, then corrected. Spending has now returned to the pre-hurricane track. Together with a weather-induced jump in spending on utility energy, this report means that total consumers' spending for March will look quite strong. It won't offset the weakness from earlier in the quarter, but it will form a solid base for Q2.”