WASHINGTON — Retail sales rose a disappointing 0.5% in April as a strong surge in demand for new cars barely offset widespread weakness elsewhere, the government reported today.
The April increase marked the first time in three months that retail sales have risen, but the advance was still disappointing to analysts who had been looking for a gain of double the actual change.
Retail sales have been sluggish for much of the year as consumers, worried about high debt burdens, have cut back spending, particularly for big-ticket items.
Sales rose a tiny 0.4% in January but fell 1% in February and 0.9% in March.
The April increase, the best showing since a 1.2% December rise, was powered by a 4.1% increase in auto sales, the largest gain in seven months.
However, sales excluding autos were down 0.4%, the first decline in this category since a 0.6% drop last June.