The headline number unexpectedly climbed 0.1%. Economists were looking for a 0.3% decline, largely due to falling gas prices.
Excluding autos and gas, sales jumped by 0.6%, beating expectations for a modest 0.3% gain.
From the Census:
The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for April, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $419.0 billion, an increase of 0.1 percent (±0.3%)* from the previous month, and 3.7 percent (±0.7%) above April 2012. Total sales for the February through April 2013 period were up 3.7 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The February to March 2013 percent change was revised from -0.4 percent (±0.5%)* to -0.5 percent (±0.2%).
Retail trade sales were virtually unchanged (±0.5%)* from March 2013 and 3.6 percent (±0.7%) above last year. Nonstore retailers were up 15.4 percent (±2.0) from April 2012 and auto and other motor vehicle dealers were up 8.8 percent (±2.0) from last year.
Here's a breakdown from the Census:
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