Significant strength in consumer spending last month provides a strong challenge to the bearish tone of late--not that much of the bout of selling was driven by concern for the health of the economy. Stock index futures have just about doubled an early five-point gain indicating a 10-point gain beyond the opening bell.
The headline-beating jump of 1.1% in retail sales was the strongest since September 2012 and saw sales gain among 10-out-of-13 categories. Sales at electronics stores and at gasoline stations fell as they did too in the miscellaneous category. The amelioration of the chilly winter possibly had much to do with the latest reading, but the snapback in dollars spent was tremendous.
Spending at auto dealers gained by 3.1% while overall sales less gasoline rose at the fastest pace in four years. Dollars spent on food items rose by a meager 0.2% while the eating and drinking category surged by a robust 1.1%. Outside of autos the two largest monthly gains came among nonstore spending (+1.7%) and within building materials where sale advanced by 1.8% indicating homeowners are willing to spend on home improvements as the weather breaks.