Sales at U.S. retailers increased broadly in February as rising energy prices boosted receipts at gasoline stations, but consumers also spent on a range of products in a sign of resilience in the face of rising gasoline prices.
KEY POINTS: * Total retail sales rose 1.0 percent, the Commerce Department said on Friday, the largest gain since October and the eighth straight monthly advance. * January sales were revised up to a 0.7 percent rise from a previously reported 0.3 percent gain. * Economists polled by Reuters had expected retail sales to increase 1.0 percent last month. Compared to February last, sales were up 8.9 percent. * Excluding autos, sales rose 0.7 percent last month after gaining 0.6 percent in January. That was also in line with economists' expectations.
JERRY WEBMAN, CHIEF ECONOMIST, OPPENHEIMER AND COMPANY, NEW YORK:
It's a good number. It was broadly based. It included some upward revisions to last month's sales with or without cars or gas. It's not all gasoline. It's going in the right direction. Sales weren't harmed yet by the higher gas prices we already started to see in February.
Retail spending has mostly been accelerating among people with sufficient income for discretionary spending so they are not as affected by higher gasoline prices as people with more limited incomes.
GARY THAYER, CHIEF MACRO STRATEGIST, WELLS FARGO ADVISORS, ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI:
Retail sales was a good number. Consumer spending is still expanding at a healthy pace. Some of the strength we saw during the holidays continued into this year. That bodes well for the economy remaining on track for recovery.
Treasuries are lower. There's a lot of uncertainty about the earthquake in Japan. People are wondering whether Japanese investors might be bringing money back to Japan and there could be some concern about demand for U.S. Treasuries if the Japanese are taking money home.
MARKET REACTION: STOCKS: U.S. stock index futures briefly turned positive. BONDS: U.S. bond prices held onto their earlier losses. FOREX: The dollar maintained its losses versus the yen but held onto gains versus the euro.