U.S. Retail Sales Climb at Fastest Rate in Five Months

More good news for stocks this morning: U.S. retail sales climbed 1.1% in February – the biggest increase in five months. That could set the stage for another day of gains for the financial markets.

According to the Commerce Department, sales were $407.8 billion in February. January sales were also revised higher, from a 0.4% gain to a 0.6% gain, while December sales were revised to show a 0.3% gain after initially being reported as flat.

Auto and gasoline sales were the chief contributors to February’s big improvements. The gas sales weren’t a surprise – the average price for a gallon of gas jumped 20 cents from January to February.

Department store sales rose 1.5% for their best monthly gain since November 2010. Specifically, clothing sales jumped 1.8% – a 15-month high.

News of the improving retail sales is already giving financial markets a boost this morning. As of 10:30 eastern time, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 58 points, or 0.45%, to cross the 13,000-point mark for the first time since late February.

 The S&P 500 had climbed 0.54%, while the Nasdaq had received the biggest bump at 0.6%.

If the Dow can maintain its morning gains until the market closes, it would mark the fifth consecutive “up” day for the index.

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