U.S. retail spending increased at a solid pace in March, an indication that consumer confidence is growing even as gasoline prices remain high.
Consumer spending drives about 70 percent of the U.S. economy, the world's largest. The government said Monday that retail sales advanced 0.8 percent last month, faster than economists had projected, but slightly less than the 1 percent gain in February.
The U.S. said its consumers spent more on home improvements, cars, electronics, furniture and clothing, as well as paying more for gasoline. Gas prices in the U.S. have risen to more than $1 a liter ($3.90 a gallon), which is less than in many other countries, but high by U.S. standards.
The increased consumer spending could signal that the American economy is growing at a faster pace than earlier predictions. It grew 3 percent in the last quarter of 2011. Some economists had projected slower growth in the January-to-March period this year. But some now think the early 2012 pace may come close to matching the end-of-year growth last year.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.