Retail sales rise 0.3% in May

WASHINGTON — Consumer spending rose 0.3% in May, marking four consecutive months of rising U.S. retail sales.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that May results were boosted by strength from the auto sector, which recorded a 1.4% sales increase during the month. U.S. retail sales rose 0.5% in April and 1.5% in March.

The four-month revival in spending — following a dismal January hurt by nasty weather — has prompted economists to predict a solid rebound to 3% growth or better in the current April-June quarter.

Sectors outside of autos didn't fare quite as well in May. Sales at hardware stores and furniture stores increased, but department store sales fell 1.4%. A broader category that includes department stores and big-box stores saw sales fall 0.6%. Sales also were down at specialty clothing stores and electronics stores, but posted a solid gain of 0.6% in the category that includes online shopping.

Analysts expect overall economic growth to remain at a solid 3% level in the second half of the year.


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