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US Retail Sales Flat in April

US retail sales were flat in April after rising only once in the previous five months, a sign the consumer-led recovery may take time to resurface following a disappointing first quarter.

Retail sales were virtually unchanged at $436.8 billion in April, following an upwardly revised gain of 1.1 percent in March that was originally reported as 0.9 percent, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday. A median estimate of economists called for a 0.2 percent increase.

Retail sales in March increased at the sharpest rate in a year following four consecutive monthly declines.

Compared to April 2014, retail sales were up 0.9 percent, official data showed.

Excluding motor vehicles and parts, sales were flat in April after edging up 0.1 percent in March.

Seven of the 13 retail sub-sectors reported declines last month, led by a 0.9 percent drop at furniture stores. Sales at gasoline stations fell 0.7 percent and were down 22 percent on the year. Electronics and appliance stores also registered a 0.4 percent drop from February.

Sales at building material and garden equipment stores advanced 0.3 percent in April, while health and personal care stores registered a 0.8 percent gain.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity, increased just 1.4 percent in the first quarter, down from 4.4 percent in the final three months of 2014.

The Federal Reserve, which is expected to remain on the sidelines until at least September, says consumer spending will expand at a “good clip” this year. Stronger employment growth, rising household wealth and greater disposable income from lower energy prices are expected to buoy consumer spending for much of 2015.

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