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US retail sales in Feb post smallest gain in 6 months

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US retail sales in February posted the smallest gain in six months, indicating a tempering of the consumer spending that's been carrying the economy.

[WASHINGTON] US retail sales in February posted the smallest gain in six months, indicating a tempering of the consumer spending that's been carrying the economy.

Purchases rose 0.1 per cent, matching the Bloomberg survey median estimate, after a 0.6 percent increase in the prior month that was stronger than previously reported, Commerce Department figures showed Wednesday. Just four of the 13 major retail categories saw gains in February sales.

Receipts dropped at electronics and appliances stores, apparel outlets and car dealers, a sign of more moderate consumption in the first quarter. While purchases may have been restrained by a temporary slowdown in individual tax refunds, robust confidence, healthy job growth and steady incomes may provide some fuel for a recovery in spending.

February was "relatively weak, and one of the reasons is the delay of tax refunds," Eugenio Aleman, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina, said before the report. Still, "confidence numbers are through the roof and if employment continues to grow it's only going to strengthen the consumer." Estimates for retail sales in the Bloomberg survey ranged from a 0.3 per cent decrease to a 0.5 per cent advance. The January reading was previously reported as a 0.4 per cent rise.

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The figures used to calculate gross domestic product, which exclude categories such as food services, auto dealers, home-improvement stores and service stations, rose 0.1 percent. That followed the prior month's 0.8 percent increase in the so-called retail control group.

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