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April retail sales edge up after weak March

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WASHINGTON — Americans increased their spending in April at retail businesses, buying more cars and clothes while paying less for gas. The rebound from a weak March suggests consumers may help boost economic growth again this spring.

Retail sales edged up 0.1 percent in April from March, the Commerce Department said Monday. That’s an improvement from a 0.5 percent decline in March, which was the largest drop in nine months.

The April gain was stronger when taking out the effect of lower gas prices, which reduced sales at gas stations 4.7 percent — the largest decline since December 2008. The retail sales report is not adjusted for price changes.

When excluding gas-station sales, retail spending rose 0.7 percent. And core retail sales, excluding gas, autos and building supplies, increased 0.5 percent. Economists pay close attention to core sales because they strip out the most volatile categories.

Sales of autos rose 1 percent in April, rebounding from a 0.6 percent drop in March. Sales at clothing stores increased 1.2 percent and sales at general-merchandise stores, a category that covers department stores, rose 1 percent. Sales were also strong at building-materials and garden-supply stores and electronics and appliance stores.

Coronado Center General Manager Randy Sanchez said sales at the Albuquerque mall flattened in March — a surprise because the Easter holiday typically drives up business — but that the center’s April traffic counts indicate a strong month.

“I’m hoping the mall can trend with the national trend,” said Sanchez, who won’t see Coronado’s final April sales report for another two weeks.

Consumers increased their spending in April, despite paying higher Social Security taxes that trimmed their paychecks this year. Their spending likely will add to economic growth in the April-June quarter.

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