Led by a surge in gasoline prices, retail sales rose 1.1 percent in February, the ""Census Bureau"":http://www2.census.gov/retail/releases/historical/marts/adv1302.pdf reported Wednesday. Economists had expected an increase of 0.5 percent. In January, retails sales rose 0.2 percent.[IMAGE]
Gasoline station sales rose 5.0 percent in February after a 0.7 percent increase in January.
Total retail activity rose $4.4 billion in February, the largest component of which was gas station sales, which rose $2.3 billion. Auto sales contributed $866 billion to the month-over-month increase, a 1.1 percent increase from January.[COLUMN_BREAK]
While often reported as a measure of consumer activity, the retail sales report is price-driven. The report is adjusted for seasonal variations ""but not for price changes,"" the Census Bureau said.
February sales were up 4.6 percent from sales a year earlier, an improvement from January, when sales were up 4.2 percent.
In addition to the increases in gasoline and auto, sales increased at food and beverage stores ($410 million) and building material and garden supply stores ($289 million), with smaller increases at health and personal care and clothing stores.
Sales dropped $127 million at furniture stores, reflecting still weak home sales and dropped at sporting good stores as well.
Restaurant sales dropped $302 million after falling $290 million in January. Restaurant sales in February were at their lowest levels since October.
Sales totals at building material and garden supply stores rose for the fourth month in a row and for the seventh time in the last eight months, while furniture store sales dropped for the first time since October.
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