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US retail sales edge higher in May

US retail sales rose modestly in May, lifted mainly by auto sales, but the April gain was revised sharply higher, pointing to stronger growth, government data released Thursday showed.

WASHINGTON: US retail sales rose modestly in May, lifted mainly by auto sales, but the April gain was revised sharply higher, pointing to stronger growth, government data released Thursday showed.

Retail and food services sales rose 0.3 per cent in May, after a revised 0.5 per cent gain in April, the Commerce Department said.

The previous April estimate was only 0.1 per cent.

Excluding auto sales, May retail sales edged up 0.1 per cent, according to the data which is adjusted seasonally but not for price changes.

The May numbers came in much weaker than analysts expected; the average estimate was for a 0.7 per cent rise in retail sales and a 0.4 per cent rise in ex-auto sales.

But the strong upward revisions to the April numbers indicated a better retail environment in general, analysts said.

"Retailers are on course for their best calendar quarter for over three years, providing further evidence that the US economy is warming up from the cold spell earlier in the year," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

Year-over-year, total retail sales in May were up 4.3 per cent.

The Commerce Department said that total retail sales in March through May period were up 4.3 per cent from the same period a year ago.

Sales of motor vehicles and parts rose 1.4 per cent in May, leading the monthly gain.

Sales at gasoline stations rose 0.4 per cent, while non-store retailers' sales advanced 0.6 per cent as shoppers increasingly go online.

Department stores posted the largest sales drop, at 1.4 percent.

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