Commerce reported that March was up 0.6% compared to February at $494.6 billion and was up 4.5% compared to March 2017.
USA retail sales rose by more than expected in March in the first gain in four months, suggesting consumer demand regained steam on the back of tax cuts and refunds. This was borne out in the "control group" used in calculating GDP, which excludes gasoline, autos, building materials, and food services, and was up a sound 0.4 percent on the month, matching market projections.
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Economists largely blame the weakness in retail sales at the start of the year on delays in processing tax refunds. The numbers for March suggest consumers are once again willing to spend that to a mixture of good economic news and the impact of the tax cuts passed late a year ago.
Last month's pick-up in core retail sales did little to change expectations of a sharp slowdown in consumer spending in the first quarter.
Even with the bounceback, consumer spending probably expanded at a slower pace in the first quarter.
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Auto sales gained two per cent, the biggest increase in six months. Some also argue that income tax cuts, which came into effect in January, only reflected on most workers' paychecks in late February. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.
But sales at building material stores fell 0.6 percent last month and receipts at clothing stores dropped 0.8 percent.
Sales rose at grocery stores, restaurants and bars, and drug stores.
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"This is a healthy spending report despite market volatility, unseasonable weather and uncertain economic policies", NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement.