The Commerce Department released their monthly retail sales figures for February showing a 1.1% increase in sales from the previous month, and a 6.5% increase from the same period a year earlier. Sales numbers from January were also revised up 0.4%.
These figures are more evidence of building economic momentum, particularly because a large chunk of the increase was in automobile sales, up 1.6%. This may be evidence that the high gas prices haven’t dampened consumer spending, at least not yet. However, keep in mind that gas prices in February weren’t averaging $4/gallon, which they are very close to now.
These numbers are part of a growing list of data points which show economic momentum, and these in particular show the American consumer to be fairly healthy. However, if oil prices continue their charge upward these numbers could change rapidly. For the moment at least, we can look forward with guarded optimism.