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The Commerce Department a little while earlier this morning, reported that the nation's retailers did nominally better in February than had been forecast, with a sales gain of 0.3% in the latest month. Expectations had been for an increase of 0.2%.

Specifically, sales came in at $427.2 billion in February, which, as noted, was up 0.3% from the previous month, and 1.5% from the year-earlier total. Spending, albeit better for the month and the latest year, was clearly not awe inspiring. Still, given the myriad of weather-related problems, this was a decent overall showing.

Breaking the report down, we find that non-store retailers, that is, sales via the Internet, achieved a strong 6.3% volume gain last month versus the prior year; health and personal care stores saw a year-to-year increase of 5.5%.

Meanwhile, backing out sales of motor vehicles and parts, we find that the so-called core retail sales component was up by 0.3%, as well, last month, a credible showing given the added costs of transportation, the greater incidence of auto breakdowns, and the higher home heating costs that would logically discourage more aggressive retail activity by many consumers.

As to other sectors, sales increased last month at furniture and home furnishing stores, gaining a solid 0.4% from January. Also, gains were recorded at building materials and garden equipment outlets, health and personal care stores, and at clothing and accessories dealers, where sales rose by 0.4%. Leading the way, however, were sales at sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores, where an outsized aggregate increase of 1.2% was inked last month.

Holding the total increase down, meantime, were modest declines at electronics and appliance stores, which may have reflected a decline in home re-sales last month, and at food and beverage stores.     

Looked at in its entirely, this was a solid report all things considered, having, as noted, modestly topped the consensus forecast for the month. This report also underscores the likelihood that economic growth probably proceeded at a 1.0%-2.0% rate during the fast-concluding quarter, an underwhelming performance, to be sure, but also likely the low point for the year.

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.