Retail sales rose in February; spending was 'relatively robust'

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Retail sales rose an estimated 1.1 percent in February from January and were up 4.6 percent from February 2012, the Census Bureau says.

Kathy Bostjancic director of macroeconomic analysis at the The Conference Board research group, says in an analysis sent to reporters that the report's a sign that "consumer spending remains relatively robust." And since consumers buy about 70 percent of all goods and services, their willingness to spend is a key economic driver.

Bloomberg News notes that the rise in February was "the most in five months" and was more than forecast.

"It's a positive indicator that consumers are adjusting to the higher payroll taxes and higher gasoline prices," Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Inc. in Detroit, tells Bloomberg. "People are encouraged by the employment gains we've seen."

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