Retail sales increased 1.1% to $421.4 billion in February, according to a Commerce Department report (link opens in PDF) released today. After rising a revised 0.2% in January, this latest news more than doubled market analysts' expected 0.5% bump. Compared to February 2012, sales have improved 4.6%. 

Auto sales bumped up 1.1% for February, and helped to add on 0.1 percentage points to the overall sales increase. Higher prices at the pump pushed sales up 5% for gasoline, the primary reason for much of the month's sharp increase.

So far for 2013, nonstore retailers have fared the best (up 14.7% unadjusted over 2012), with auto sales' 8.4% increase not far behind. Only two businesses recorded decreasing unadjusted sales in the first two months of the year: electronics and appliance stores (-0.7%), and general merchandises stores (-4%).