WASHINGTON – U.S. retail sales rose at a solid pace in April, a sign that consumers may be rebounding from weak spending earlier this year and driving stronger economic growth.
Retail sales increased at a 0.3 percent rate in April, the Commerce Department said Tuesday, down from a 0.8 percent gain in March, which was revised higher from 0.6 percent. The spending gains were spread across most retail categories, with especially big gains at furniture and clothing stores.
Consumer spending has rebounded in the past two months after a weak January and February, a trend that could accelerate growth in the April-June quarter.
“Consumption growth is on track for a big rebound in the second quarter, which should push overall GDP growth up to more than 3 percent,” said Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. That would represent an improvement from the January-March quarter when the economy expanded at a 2.3 percent annual rate.
The Commerce Department's retail sales data showed that clothing-store sales, fueled by price cuts, jumped 1.4 percent. Sales at home and garden stores rose 0.4 percent. A category that includes online and catalog sales increased 0.6 percent.
U.S. homebuilders are feeling more confident about their sales prospects, reflecting strong demand for newly built homes with existing homes in short supply.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday rose two points to 70 this month.
That's up from a revised reading of 68 in April and snaps a four-month slide in builder confidence.
Any reading above 50 indicates more builders see sales conditions as good rather than poor. The index has remained above 60 since September 2016.