Retail sales edged up in April

Did you get out and shop in April?

Retail sales numbers released today show improving consumer confidence and more spending in stores.

The National Retail Federation reported a 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted sales gain from March to April, excluding autos, gas stations and restaurants, and a 3.9 percent gain compared with April 2012. The U.S. Department of Commerce said total retail and food service sales – which do include autos, gas stations and restaurants – grew 0.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted, month-to-month basis in April and 3.7 percent year-over-year.

The slight bump in spending was unexpected as consumers have been adjusting to the end of payroll tax cuts, with workers in some income brackets having $1,000 to $1,500 more taken from their paychecks each year. Economists in a Reuters poll had expected April store sales to decrease 0.3 percent.

The retail trade group says consumers are feeling more confident, thanks to strengthening jobs data, rising housing prices and a surging stock market.

“In the face of higher taxes and sequester, consumers provided the economy a bit of a reprieve this month,” NRF CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.

The sales data is encouraging, said Jack Kleinhenz, the trade group’s chief economist. But he warned that it might not mean a healthier second quarter.

“NRF continues to forecast moderate sales growth for the year,” Kleinhenz said.

Also from the NRF’s April sales report, on a seasonally adjusted, month-to-month basis:

- Clothing and clothing accessories stores' sales increased 1.2 percent.

- Electronics and appliance stores’ sales increased 0.8 percent.

- Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales were flat.

- General merchandise stores’ sales increased 1.0 percent.

- Health and personal care stores’ sales decreased 0.1 percent.

- Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 0.5 percent.

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