Retail sales bumped up a seasonally adjusted 0.1% to $419 billion for April, according to a Commerce Department report (link opens in PDF) released today.
After falling a revised 0.5% for March, analysts had expected April sales to drop another 0.3%.
A 1% month-to-moth jump in auto sales contributed significantly to April's improvements, helping to offset a 4.7% drop in gasoline station sales driven primarily by cheaper pump prices. Analysts find it helpful to exclude volatile automobile and gasoline sales, and had expected a 0.4% gain outside these sales. But predictions proved too pessimistic again, with the new numbers clocking in up 0.6%.
Other major gainers for April include a 1.5% bump in building materials & garden equipment, a 1.4% increase in nonstore retail, and a 1.2% improvement in clothing sales. Food & beverage sales tapered off with a 0.8% decline.
In the last three months, overall sales have increased 3.7% above the same period for 2012.