Retail sales rose by 0.4 percent in January, the Commerce Department reported today.
While that's better than December's flat number, it's less than the 0.8 percent expected by economists. The AP adds:
"When excluding autos and gasoline station sales, retail spending jumped 0.6 percent the best showing in three months.
"Consumers spent less on cars, the report showed, even though automakers have previously reported higher sales in January. That suggests dealers offered discounts in order to boost sales.
"Sales at gasoline stations rose 1.4 percent, the most in 10 months. Gas prices have risen steadily in recent months."
Update at 8:47 a.m. ET. Number Signals Economic Recovery:
Brian Wesbury, chief economist at First Trust advisors, tells our Newscast unit that he expects a revision of this number. He says oddly, the U.S. government saw a decline in auto sales when dealers reported a good month in January.
If you exclude the auto market, retail sales rose by 0.7 percent, which Wesbury said was "a good number."
It signals, he said, that the "consumer is not only alive but shopping."
The number also signals that the economic recovery is continuining. "It's not a boom," said Wesbury, "but it is an economic recovery."