Retail sales jump on strong car sales

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Retail sales were up much more in May than they were the previous month.

Retail spending jumped in May, helped by consumers hitting dealer showrooms to buy cars.

The U.S. government report released Thursday showed a 0.6% increase in sales in the month, up from the modest 0.1% rise a month earlier. Much of the gain was due to a 1.9% jump in spending at car dealerships.

But even stripping out car sales, retail sales were up a healthy 0.3% in May.

Car sales have been strong for most of the year, helped by a combination of easier credit, a rebound in home prices and strong stock market gains, which combine to help improve household wealth. Automakers reported industry-wide U.S. new car sales were up 8.2% in May.

The rebound in housing prices also has led to a jump in home building, which in turn spurred a 0.9% rise in spending at building material and garden supply stores.

But a number of other key retail sectors also posted healthy gains, including a 0.7% rise at grocery stores, a 0.5% increase in spending at general merchandise stores and a 0.7% rise at nonstore retailers, which primarily reflects online shopping.

The hot mall drawing 8 million shopaholics
The hot mall drawing 8 million shopaholics

Spending by consumers is an important measure of economic growth because it accounts for more than two-thirds of the nation's overall economy.

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