U.S. retail sales unexpectedly fell in March as households cut back on purchases of automobiles, further evidence that economic growth stumbled in the first quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday that retail sales declined 0.3 percent last month after being unchanged in February. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales edging up 0.1 percent last month.
Retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services ticked up 0.1 percent last month after an upwardly revised 0.1 percent gain in February.
These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product. Economists had forecast core retail sales rising 0.3 percent last month.