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United States retail sales rose 0.4% in April

United States retail sales rose 0.4% in April

A pickup in United States retail sales last month adds to signs of steady consumer spending that will help propel the economy after a first-quarter slowdown, Commerce Department data showed Friday.

On a 12-month smoothed basis, retail sales rose by 4.1%, their smallest increase in eight months.

Retail trade sales were up 0.4% from March 2017, and up 4.5% from previous year.

Americans stepped up their spending at auto dealers, hardware stores and e-commerce outlets as retail sales rebounded from two sluggish months.

Non-store retailers - primarily e-commerce and catalog businesses - saw an 11.9% sales increase over April a year ago, and were up 1.4% from revised March numbers. April retail sales, it explained, were driven by online and other non-store sellers, electronics stores, and building materials and supplies. Sales fell 0.4% at grocery stores and rose 0.4% at restaurants and bars.

U.S. retail and food services sales came in at $474.9 billion in April, an increase of 0.4 percent from March, and 4.5 percent above April 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau on Friday.

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It was the strongest sales gain in three months, and came with positive revisions to earlier data.

Consumer confidence has soared since the presidential election, but spending hasn't increased as much as the jump in optimism would suggest.

The deceleration in overall growth reflected a sharp slowdown in consumer spending, which accounts for the majority of total economic output.

"As much as we do see some forward pressures on household finances, we also see positives from continued low gas prices, relatively full employment, and some modest gains in wages", Saunders said.

The costs related to the store closures and severance packages was partly responsible for Penney's net loss more than doubling to $180 million, or 58 cents per share, in the quarter ended April 29. Stronger March data than originally reported may help boost U.S. GDP, which showed a 0.7% pace of growth in the government's first estimate. And retailers collectively could report the biggest drop in first-quarter profits since 2009.

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