U.S. consumer spending appeared to regain momentum in January as households ramped up purchases of a variety of goods, in a hopeful sign that economic growth was picking up after slowing to a crawl at the end of 2015.
The Commerce Department said on Friday retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services increased 0.6 percent last month after an unrevised 0.3 percent decline in December.
These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast core retail sales increasing 0.3 percent last month.
Growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, moderated in the fourth quarter. That, together with weak export growth because of a strong dollar, efforts by businesses to sell inventory and cuts in capital goods spending by energy firms, restrained GDP growth to a 0.7 percent annual pace.
Consumer spending is being supported by a strengthening labor market, which is starting to lift wages.