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U.S. Consumers Open Their Wallets, Cautiously

Wall Street Journal (04/14/15) Kate Davidson; Eric Morath

Sales at retailers and restaurants rose 0.9% to a seasonally adjusted $441.4 billion in March, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, marking the biggest monthly gain in a year despite falling from the highest level reached since the end of the recession in November. The increase failed to meet economists’ expectations of a 1.1% gain; the March thaw was expected to offset three months of declines attributed to the harsh winter.

“This outcome confounds all the standard consumer-spending models,” says Michael Feroli, JPMorgan Chase chief U.S. economist. “Job gains, wealth gains, low gas prices, and very high consumer sentiment would all point to solid consumer spending increases.” The report shows a jump in car sales, spending at home-improvement stores, and increased sales of clothing and accessories, but spending on gas, electronics, appliances, online shopping, and groceries decreased.