March Retail Sales At 0.4%, Below Expectations, Down From 1.1% In February; Ex-Autos And Gas Slightly Better

March retail sales which came at 0.4%, below expectations of 0.5%, and down from an upward revised 1.1% February, confirm that the economy in Q1 slowed down materially toward the end, and was certainly not as hot as had been predicted early in 2011. This was the lowest improvement since June 2010. The number was offset by the "ex autos and gas" number which came at 0.6%, better than expected, although with ever more capital being diverted to gas purchases this is cold comfort to those who have to use gas. The biggest weakness was in auto sales which dropped by a substantial 1.7%. Retail sales increased a modest 0.3% (and retail and food total up 0.4%). Gasoline stations saw another sizable increase of 2.6% sequentially and 16.7% from a year earlier. Food and beverage stores were among the weakest posting just a 0.1% increase in March.

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