Retail sales beat expectations

By Blake Ellis, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Retail sales rose in February, the government said Friday, surprising economists who expected a decline.

The Commerce Department said total retail sales edged up 0.3% to $355.5 billion last month. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had anticipated that February sales would drop 0.2%.

February's increase showed that Americans were still making it to the stores despite the snow and cold weather last month and customers were splurging on electronics for the Super Bowl, said Chris Donnelly, a senior executive at consulting firm Accenture.

February retail sales jumped 3.9% compared to the same month in 2009.

"This is consistent with the trend we've been seeing," said Donnelly. "We've seen a gradual thaw in the consumer pocketbook, and there is pent up demand -- we are certainly in a more optimistic place in February 2010 than in February 2009."

Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, and related reports such as retail sales are used to gauge whether a recovery is underway.

The monthly rise in sales was led by a jump in electronics and appliance store sales, which rose 3.7% last month. Purchases of TVs and other electronics leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, which took place early in the month, was likely a large part of this increase, said Donnelly.

The reading was weighed down by auto sales, which fell 2% after dropping 1.5% in the previous month.

Sales excluding autos and auto parts rose 0.8% last month, also beating expectations. A consensus of economists had projected ex-auto sales to edge up 0.1% in February.

Earlier in the month, many of the nation's retail chains reported much stronger than expected February sales.

Sales tracker Thomson Reuters, which looks at monthly same-store sales for 30 chains including Costco and Target, said February sales rose 4% in February, beating analyst expectations.

Donnelly said retail sales are likely to pick up more in the next few months as the season changes and consumers shop for spring and summer clothing.

"In January, February and March as a three-month stretch, there's not a lot of excitement," he said. "But at the end of March and in April and May, you will see a lot more people spending on apparel as the spring comes out, and a pick up in apparel will be a very encouraging sign."

In a separate report last week, the Labor Department said fewer jobs were lost in February than expected, boosting optimism about a recovering labor market. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,408.54 -16.31 -0.10%
Nasdaq 4,095.52 9.29 0.23%
S&P 500 1,864.85 2.54 0.14%
Treasuries 2.72 0.08 3.19%
Data as of 1:01am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.15 0.00 0.00%
Facebook Inc 58.94 0.00 0.00%
General Electric Co 26.56 0.00 0.00%
Cisco Systems Inc 23.19 -0.02 -0.09%
Micron Technology In... 23.91 0.00 0.00%
Data as of Apr 17
Sponsors

Sections

GM won't have to tell customers to keep their recalled cars parked until fixed, after a federal judge denied emergency motion Thursday. More

Obamacare sign ups hit 8 million, though final enrollment remains to be seen. More

Schwinn, Trek and Cannondale are all iconic American bicycle brands. But none of them are made in the United States. More

As Detroit moves closer to reaching a bankruptcy deal, retired civilian workers are poised to be left worse off than firemen and police officers. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.