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US retail sales turned positive in February after two down months, the Commerce Department said Thursday, more evidence that slow economic activity since November could largely be weather-related.
Retail sales rose 0.3 percent from January to $427.2 billion, with the same level of increase shown for the large auto sales sector and for retail sales excluding autos.
There was continued weakness though in general retailers, electronics and appliance store sales, and in the food and beverage sector.
Non-store retailers, mainly online sales, did well, however, adding 1.2 percent in the month.
The rebound did not make up for what was a worse January than originally estimated, with the Commerce Department revising January's decline to 0.6 percent month-on-month.
Year-on-year February sales were up a tepid 1.5 percent, but for the December-February quarter, the annual gain was a stronger 2.3 percent.
Non-store retailers showed a strong annual gain of 6.3 percent.
Many economists speculate that the poor data from December and January reflects the severity of the winter storms that blasted much of the eastern half of the country during that period.
"Still, the February performance is encouraging given its weather was worse than January, relative to normal," said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.
"The bad news is that the weekly chain-store numbers have deteriorated further in recent weeks, so a robust rebound, recovering the recent lost ground, is not yet in sight."