U.S. Retail Sales Improve in May

U.S. retail cash registers clicked louder and more often last month, according to figures released Friday morning.

The U.S. Commerce Department says retail sales increased in May and sales for the prior month were revised higher, suggesting a pickup in consumer spending that could ease fears the economy was slowing down sharply in the second quarter.

The department revealed that retail sales rose 0.5% last month as households bought more motor vehicles and a variety of other goods. Data for April was revised up to show retail sales gaining 0.3%, instead of dropping 0.2% as previously reported.

Economists had forecast retail sales climbing 0.6% in May. Compared to May last year, retail sales increased 3.2%.

Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales advanced 0.5% last month after an upwardly revised 0.4% rise in April. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.

They were previously reported to have been unchanged in April. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity.